“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” – 2 Corinthians 6: 14-15
It has always astonished me: That as much time as the church invests in talking about marriage (second only to prosperity) there is only one instance in recorded scripture of Christ teaching about marriage in Matthew. The Messiah often employed marriage as a metaphor in his teaching, but His main objective was to inspire holiness and encourage discipleship among all who heard His word.
And yet, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone preaching this. The average Christian doesn’t even aspire to holiness. What do people pray for these days?
God, bless my finances.
God, bring me a husband!
God, give me a promotion.
Marriage and finances.
And so the church has become a dysfunctional brothel – a hunting ground for sexual predators and Ponzi scheming con artists. A glimpse into the average church – particularly the Black church – will reveal a congregation full of women who hunger for what has presented to them as godliness, which includes the devoted love of a “good Christian man”. Social factors conspire against them however, what with the ratio of African-American men who are incarcerated and men not being reached for the gospel anyway. These (desperate) women become prime fodder to be devoured by Christian Casanovas who operate in the church, and if God doesn’t intervene, turn out damaged and broken. Stories of those women abound, but they are not my focus today.
I want to talk about the women who find themselves on the other side of the pendulum, because it is they who I find the most pity for: women who find themselves unequally yoked with a believer.
That verse in 2 Corinthians has been pounded into every facet of the Christian walk. However, it is most powerfully employed where courting and marriage is the topic at hand. If we took it seriously, Christians wouldn’t have any dealings with Comcast, the Rush Card or Sallie Mae…all denizens of darkness, as far as I’m concerned! Nevertheless, the caution not to find oneself yoked with the unbeliever has prompted many a person of faith to seek out a particular kind of life mate – one that ticks all of the superficial requirements of a good Christian mate. I believe this is part of the reason divorce rates in the church are so high: there is no practical information provided to people of marrying age to guide their coupling choices. In the end, you have a lot of Christian couples that are unsuitably matched.
One’s age bracket dictates the sorts of conversations one has, and I have found myself in talks with women who are either deeply unhappy with their marriages or have finally made the decision to end those marriages altogether. And it’s not necessarily because their husbands were bad men…they were just bad for them. I call these men sheep in wolves’ clothing: Men who have the outward appearance of strength and valor, but lack the substance of either inwardly.
I am not ashamed to admit that I watch a great deal of Animal Planet, and I enjoy observing the natural world. I think animals teach us a lot more about human nature than we realize. The reason I call these men “sheep in wolves’ clothing” is this: Women (in general ) are looking for a particular kind of mate; One who is strong, decisive yet considerate. One who has instincts that will ensure the progeny of their family. Sure, there are a handful of women who want a soft guy they can manipulate and control, but they are in the minority. They are outliers. At the end of the day, the average woman wants in her marriage what the average man wants: a partner that can be respected. Without respect, there is only discord – and discord leads to divorce.
What quick observations can be made about the differences between male sheep and wolves?
- At the first sign of danger, the male sheep bolts, often placing himself at the head of the flock to save himself from harm. He doesn’t look back to see if his lambs are protected or even if they made it to safety. The male wolf faces danger down and will not hesitate to bloody his opponent if he has to.
- Though in a flock, sheep look out for themselves. They graze for themselves. They are self-centered. Wolves hunt in packs. They cooperate. They have a plan of attack that ensures the wellbeing of the pack.
- Sheep are easily led and influenced. Wolves, not so much.
- Sheep are cowards. They put on a good show, but only when their adversary is another sheep. I once saw a sheep get punked by a chicken. The chicken terrorized him for 20 minutes or better. Can you see a wolf letting a chicken punk it?
Tracey’s husband was a virgin when they met and married and she wasn’t. And he never let her forget it. Neither did his mother.
“My son saved himself for your marriage, and that means you must give him sex every night.”
When Tracey objected to the notion for its mere impracticality, her mother-in-law informed her that she had no excuse. “After all,” she said, “it only takes 5 minutes.”
To the world, Tracey and her husband had the perfect marriage: he was a prayer warrior in the church. He played in the band. They had two bright, well-behaved kids. They smiled at everyone. But as soon as they got in the car, the smiles stopped. He never prayed with her at home. If he had a problem in his marriage, he would call his mother. He never wanted to take his family anywhere or do anything unless it was related to the church…and to their church, that made him look noble. But their family was falling apart. Her husband was a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Yaba’s husband is three years her junior. They were married at 34 and 31, both waiting until their found their perfect mate in Christ. She was a virgin when they married and so was he. This was perfect! It had to be God. Right?
But Yaba’s husband didn’t want to work. She bought the house they live in and cars they drive. They have 4 kids together now. And previously, when he was made to feel the least bit of discomfort at home, her husband has left his family to run back to , and live with, his mommy and daddy a total of six times in seven years! Her husband is a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Arlene’s husband was a deacon in their church. He was responsible and cordial to everyone he met. He was probably most cordial with his wife…but that was it. There was no passion in their marriage. Just politeness. Like Tracey’s husband, he never wanted to go anywhere or do anything that wasn’t a church function. When Arlene suggested that they go on a cruise, he shot the idea down. When she broached the idea of them exploring Europe, he said it would take him away from his duties at church…so, NO. Eventually, she ended their three-year marriage, much to the objection of the leadership of their church. Do you know what Arlene’s husband did the year after their divorce? In a display of epic petulant pettiness, he went on a cruise and travelled Europe and then sent her pictures of his grinning mug! Arlene’s husband was definitely a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
You can draw your own conclusions from each of these examples, but as a woman who is about to celebrate her 11th year of marriage, I’d advise anyone looking for a life partner to look beyond the superficial. Look beyond the attributes the person ticks on your Perfect Christian list and look at the person. I’ve written before about how I almost left my husband because we were becoming less and less compatible and I felt like I was losing myself. I didn’t like who I was becoming in my marriage. Fortunately, I married a man who was not averse to change and more importantly, talking things through and not just quoting scripture to support a point he refused to deviate from. He would rather have peace than the satisfaction of being “right”.
What struck me most about Tracey’s story is when she revealed that she married her husband because he didn’t believe in divorce. This was attractive to her because as a child of divorce herself, she decided early that this would never be her children’s fate. It is the only reason their marriage is still intact…but only on paper. Not believing in divorce is vastly different than being committed to marriage. Your walk with God should not be the only thing you have in common with your spouse. Your existence is far more nuanced than that; and that is the essence of being unequally yoked with a believer.