The principle of “agreement” and its importance was established long ago. “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” Deut. 22:10 There are some species of animals that are not comfortable with one another. They also don’t pull the same when yoked. Donkeys have a shorter step than the ox; they also have a very offensive odor to their breath. This would cause their “yoke fellow” to turn away, holding their head away from the donkey, making their pull uneven. If you’re unequally yoked with a person or a group you will not be able to plow without distraction.
You may have the challenge of living in the same house and sleeping in the same bed with a partner whose life vision is not always in agreement with yours. It can be a very lonely road, a difficult one to walk but there are precious jewels to be gathered on the journey. Your faithfulness will be rewarded. I believe this is one component of sharing in the “fellowship of His sufferings.” Hearing this phrase usually conjures up thoughts of persecution or even martyrdom and these would certainly apply. I believe that they also include bearing up under the weight of an unequal marriage yoke. Jesus was constantly seeing galaxies beyond what His companions were. We could say that they weren’t always on the same page!
It’s Not Fair
If you feel that your spouse is holding up the progress in your marriage, be comforted. Jesus empathizes with you and He will impart the same grace that strengthened His life as he walked with his sometimes “slow” disciples. Marriage will give ample opportunity for husbands and wives to be on both ends of this gamut; it’s only fair. What isn’t fair to our human reasoning is that the Perfect One, Holy God from eternity past, laid aside His attributes as God and took on human flesh. He walked in the midst of this dark world, endured injustice, suffered reproach and yoked Himself to “whosoever will”, every person that would say “yes” to following Him. Jesus became a man and has invested in mankind with a clear objective:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Eph. 5:25-27
But, remember, this means that the husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the Church, when he sacrificed himself for her. Christ gave himself to make her holy, having cleansed her through the baptism of his Word—to make her an altogether glorious Church in his eyes. She is to be free from spots, wrinkles or any other disfigurement—a Church holy and perfect. (Phillips)
A Matter of the Heart
I love the zeal of the Lord, though it tends to be consuming. Are there no “exempt” spots, wrinkles, or blemishes which are not the target of God’s redemptive transformation? Is it truly “absolute” surrender that He desires – perfectly pure and without mixture? “What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.” 2 Cor. 6:14-17 We are to “come out from among them” – lawlessness, darkness, and idols. We error to think it’s the world “out there” endangering us the most. Granted, we must walk circumspectly, as Jesus did, but holiness is a matter of the heart.
Inside of the Cup
The religious leaders of the day may have looked more holy than Christ, but they missed the most important point. “What miserable frauds you are, you scribes and Pharisees! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, while the inside is full of greed and self-indulgence. Can’t you see, Pharisee? First wash the inside of a cup, and then you can clean the outside.” Mt. 23:25-26 (Phillips) Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Cor. 7:1
Imagine how the landscape of marriage would change if each spouse took care of the inside of their own cup!
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt. 11:30 It’s tragic to see Christian couples who have talked themselves into believing they’re not compatible anymore. “It’s too hard; the weight has become unbearable. This can’t be the Lord’s will because it would be easier if it was.” The Apostle Paul wore the yoke of Christ in such a faithful way. “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Cor. 4:8-10 He then gives a wonderful summary of it all.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:17-18
Paul used the same word to describe his affliction that Jesus used to describe His yoke. The yoke that Christ asks us to wear is akin to the yoke the Father fitted Him with. It is kind and gracious, uniquely tailored for the wearer, and is working for us an eternal weight of glory. I bless those of you who had no choice in the matter, whose spouse broke covenant through adultery, desertion, or severe abuse. You ran the race to the best of your ability. Stay in the yoke with Jesus.
Everyone wears the yoke of their choice. The King of kings, also a professional carpenter during His earthly journey, makes the best yokes. The evil god of this age offers his own brand of yokes to wear, more comfortable on the front end but destructive to their wearers in the end. Husbands, stay yoked to Jesus. Wives, stay yoked to Jesus. When you do, you will discover the desire to remain yoked to one another.