By Lynn Feliciah
Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be equally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness.” This verse usually comes up in this argument.
In Paul’s days, ploughing was done by placing yokes onto two animals of the same kind.
Yoking animals of a different kind, such as a donkey and an ox meant the field would be left unevenly ploughed, to the disadvantage of the farmer.
And that the weaker animal would be overpowered by the stronger one. Even though 2 Corinthians 6 is often used to nullify marriages to non-Christians, it is important to note the passage’s larger context.
You are still unequally yoked if you are married to a fellow Christian, but are having fellowship with the world; if you dress like them, are sexually immoral, and so forth.
Who is a non-believer?
“How do I know one?” you might ask. The Bible does not leave us hanging on this matter. In Matthew 7, Jesus warns that not everybody who calls him Lord will enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Many are in Church, but their hearts are far away from God. Most are the best servants, worshippers and at worst, pastors, but do not bear fruit.
Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, explicitly describes what the fruit of the Holy Spirit is and what it is not.
Does the person you want to marry have self-control, love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness?
Or are they drunkards, idolaters, sexually immoral, jealous, and everything else Paul calls work of the flesh?
We ought to also look out for cultic behaviour. People in cults are usually very moral, as Christians should be, but go beyond what the Bible commands.
They will alienate you from your family and friends who believe differently, make you follow a strict set of rules and will instill an unhealthy fear of God or a disrespect of the grace that He gives.
It is additionally important to differentiate between non-Christians and different sound denominations of the Christian faith.
Non-Christians will, for example, refute the deity and or humanity of Jesus, deny the Trinity and defend a work-based salvation.
Different denominations will disagree on secondary issues like baby versus adult baptism, and order of services or administration of sacraments.
Therefore, Christians of different denominations, for example Anglican and Pentecostal, can marry if they wish.
What the Bible says
Jonathan Bukenya, a youth minister at St Apollo Kivebulaya Church of Uganda in Maganjo, Kawempe, while making reference to 1 Corinthians 7:39 said: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives.
“But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
Bukenya argues that though this verse addresses widowed Christian women, the last part: “Only in the Lord,” applies to everyone in the body of Christ.
“It would be hypocritical of us to assume that the command applies to widows and perhaps widowers only,” Bukenya says.
He further notes: “As the Israelites were set apart, marrying from among themselves, so are we as Christians. We cannot have holy marriages and live holy lives if one partner is in direct rebellion with the Word of God.”
Bukenya encourages Christians to think ahead. “Search your heart and think beyond the butterflies he or she makes you feel.
Think of the children you will bring into this world. Would you love for them to have conflicting ideas about who God is because mummy believes in God and daddy opposes that belief?”
First, divorce is not an option unless on the grounds of sexual immorality. Emmanuel Mukisa, a deacon at Reconciliation Baptist Church, Nalukolongo, Kampala says the Bible in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15, gives guidelines for believers.
“Paul advises that the couple should maintain the marriage if the unbelieving spouse is willing, for the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse and their children,” Mukisa says, quoting verse 14.
He also notes that Paul encourages peaceful coexistence with one another and praying for the unbelieving spouse.
In 1 Peter 3:1, wives of unbelieving husbands are to be subject to them so that even if they do not obey the Word, they may be won by the conduct of their wives. This, Mukisa calls being a positive influence.
The yoke of marriage is by far one of the strongest bonds on earth and marriage to a non-Christian is not merely relational.
It affects every spiritual aspect of your life from the day you say: “I do,” to your last breathe, if that person does not change.
Asked if Christians can and should marry non-Christians, Miriam Kirabo, a member of the United Faith Chapel in Kansanga, Kampala, said because God gives us free will, a Christian can marry a non-Christian.
However, because we should not be unequally yoked, Christians should not pursue and marry non-Christians.
She also argues that since God is and defines love, a non-Christian who does not know God might not love you as Christ loves the Church.
Sharing in Kirabo’s sentiments, Vicky Dalia says sharing different views of God is enough catalyst for endless troubles and arguments in the marriage.
“This might lead to divorce which the Lord hates,” Dalia says.