In many churches, couples who get engaged are counseled that they should be “equally yoked” with each other. But what does that even mean? We provide a brief explanation here, along with a few ways you can seek this kind of relationship with your future spouse.
Becoming Equally Yoked
2 Corinthians 6:14 says…
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
The imagery used here is a wooden yoke used to hold two oxen together as they worked a field. If the two animals were mismatched in strength or ability, they could not work together effectively; they were considered “unequally yoked.” Only by pairing two compatible animals together could the work be done.
Church doctrine typically interprets this verse and the surrounding passage to mean that, when we seek out a husband or wife, we should first make sure that the other person is also a believer in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, by inviting an unbeliever to unite themselves with us forever, we are also inviting darkness into the relationship that could lead us away from God.
11 Ways to Test if You Are Equally Yoked
Here are a few ways to make sure that your relationship is “equally yoked.”
#1 You Are Both Believers
First and foremost, both the man and the woman must be firm believers in the Gospel. Both should have already accepted the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the atonement for their sins, and have devoted their lives to seeking God’s will.
#2 You Both Want to Grow in Your Walk with God
Our faith is not a one-time profession; it must be constantly and consistently lived out throughout our lives. Both partners should seek God in new ways each day, growing their faith as they grow closer to each other.
#3 You Make God the First Priority in Your Life – Even Over the Other Person
God must be the first priority in our lives. It must guide every decision, and if the will of God runs counter to personal preference or the desires of your partner, God must win out. This is not a license for hurt or abuse, but in total love, we must be willing to abandon ourselves to God’s purposes above all else.
#4 You Are Committed to Helping the Other Person do What They Need to Grow Spiritually
Be willing to walk alongside your partner in love and grace, giving as much of yourself as necessary to help them grow in their walk with the Lord. They should also happily do the same for you, as you both seek God individually and together as a couple.
#5 You Have Similar Values in Ministry and Theology
Essential beliefs may be held in common by many different denominations, but there are many other doctrines that can cause division in any relationship – and especially in marriage. Have thorough conversations with your prospective spouse about your key religious beliefs, keeping the core aspects of the Gospel at the forefront of all discussions.
#6 You Are Willing to Help the Other Person Overcome Their Mistakes
Nobody is perfect; we are all fallen human beings. Your partner will never be completely without fault, so you should respond to their shortcomings with a healthy measure of grace and mercy. Starting from a place of love instead of judgment will help the other person to grow and mature in their faith.
#7 You Pray Together
Couples should pray together as a crucial way of keeping Christ at the center of their relationship. Individual prayer is also vital, but seeking the will of God together with your spouse is a beautiful way to acknowledge God’s lordship over your lives as well as your marriage.
#8 You Worship Together
Corporate worship is essential to a healthy faith, and we must ensure that we are actively worshipping with other believers. Join a church together with your spouse, and attend there regularly. Sometimes, you both will have an equally strong desire to go to church. Other times, one partner may be more willing than the other. We will all go through different seasons in life, but as long as we hold the other person accountable for gathering together in worship with others, we will encourage and build each other up in our marriages and our faith.
#9 You Both Base Your Understanding of the World on Scripture
The Bible is meant to be the cornerstone of our individual lives, and it is also given to us as the bedrock for our marriages. You should immerse yourself in the Word with your spouse as you walk through this life together. Only by keeping Scripture in the forefront of your minds and hearts can you navigate the trials and temptations every marriage will face, and only by clinging to the Word of God can you grow closer to Him together.
#10 You Have Similar Viewpoints on how to Raise Your Children in the Church
Raising children is the greatest blessing a couple can have, and it is vitally important that we train up our children in the way of the Lord. Despite any other parenting difference, one parenting decision that must come first is the decision to raise your children in the church, teaching them to have faith in God as you do.
#11 You Are Willing to Love and Serve the Other Person – Husband or Wife
Numerous passages in Scripture teach us to be submissive to one another to have a healthy, God-oriented marriage. The husband should not be domineering and abusive toward his wife, and the wife should not seek to control her husband. Both partners should submit to each other and serve each other. The wife is instructed to submit to the rule of her husband and acknowledge his lead in the relationship, but the husband is commanded to love his wife as himself and to surrender his own rights in favor of what would best serve his wife.
Ultimately, both partners are to recognize the lordship of God in their relationship at all times. This in itself is a picture of the Gospel: mutual submission that never seeks to rule or control but to build up and seek the good of the other person while seeking God above all things.
If you are thinking about entering into the covenant of marriage, or if you find yourself in a situation where you may be partnered with an unbeliever, take heart in the mercy and power of God and seek ways to make sure that both husband and wife are pursuing the things of God first in your relationship. God will certainly walk with you and bless you as you do.
How to Know If You’re Unequally Yoked
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. She is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.