Thursday, March 07, 2013

All things being unequal

The reader of this blog would have seen my earlier post about poor hermeneutics. Here is yet another example. In his second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul warns his recipients against being "unequally yoked." (2 Corinthians 6:14)

This time, the individual concerned attempted to assert that this verse forbids Christians from socializing with Christians from other churches. This means that if you're a single Christian who is marriage minded, but cannot find any suitable prospects in their own congregation, is not allowed to widen his or her social circle and seek out opportunities to meet other Christians elsewhere. Wow, it's pretty impressive of Paul to speak into the situation of single, marriage minded Christians in 21st century suburban Melbourne.

Sarcasm aside, what did Paul actually mean by being "unequally yoked?"

The text notes in the Life Application Study Bible say that Paul was urging believers not to form binding relationships with non believers, because this "might weaken their Christian commitment, integrity, or standards," specifically in business or personal relationships, particularly in the context of marriage. Compromise is a real danger. It brings to mind the image of trying to yoke two different breeds of cattle to plough a field. One would pull the other off course. They wouldn't be able to plough in a straight line.

The ESV Study Bible goes into greater detail:

To be "unequally yoked" is to be "hitched up" or even crossbred with another animal who is not the same (Gk heterozygeo)...It is thus an image for being allied or identified wrongly with unbelievers. In context, it refers especially to those who are still rebelling against Paul within the church, whom Paul now shockingly labels as unbelievers. (He clearly thinks that some are [2 Corinthians 13:5], though he hopes not), but the principle has wider applications to other situations where (as with animals yoked together)one person's conduct and direction of life strongly influences or controls the other other's.

Paul doesn't go as far as telling believers to isolate themselves from non believers (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10).  These unbelievers may either be untrustworthy persons in contrast to Paul, Gentile Christians who did not observe the Mosaic Law, the immoral within the church, and the false apostles, whose attempts to undermine Paul's work in Corinth prompted his writing of this letter.

There's nothing worse than being a Christian whose only friendships are with other Christians, and who seeing it as irredeemably evil, deliberately cloisters themselves from the outside world to avoid being contaminated. but  the clear application is to exercise wisdom and discernment. as this passage says nothing about relationships or involvements with other believers, there is no possible way to interpret this passage as the unnamed individual asserted.

Reams of ink have been used on explaining what this passage actually means and how to apply it. In the English speaking world, we're pretty much spoiled for choice when it comes to the wide availability and accessibility of Bible commentaries, dictionaries, atlases, sermon pod casts, not to mention other study helps.

"Lone ranger" Christians who disregard this material and come up with their own unique interpretations are trouble makers who need to pull their heads in, and be disciplined firmly, but fairly.

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