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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2004-03-21

Text: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

This is what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers concerning the relationships they had with their idol-worshipping friends (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). The Christians in Corinth lived in the midst of a very worldly, immoral and idolatrous society. This environment had a strong influence on them. Because of this strong influence, the case of immorality in the church could not be dealt with so easily. There was also a dissenting and divisive spirit among some of the members, and some were adopting worldly methods to deal with the problems, like suing one another in the public courts.

The Corinthians needed to renounce all compromise with their pagan, worldly environment. But as long as their non-Christian friends continued to influence them, they could not do this. Hence there was a great need for them to sever the close relationships they had with these people. It is never easy for anyone to break an established relationship. This is why the apostle Paul used the strongest possible argument to convince them- their relationship with God! Their new relationship with a holy and righteous God demands a radical change in their relationships with unbelievers. 

The contrast between God and unbelievers is brought out in five stark comparisons: Righteousness and Unrighteousness, Light and Darkness, Christ and Belial, the Believer and the Infidel, the Temple of God and Idols. These five comparisons are presented in the form of rhetorical questions. The answer to all of them is obvious - None! There can be no fellowship, no communion, no concord, no part and no agreement between these two. Hence our relationship with God demands a change in the way we relate to unbelievers. 

When we turned to Christ for salvation we entered into a permanent and unbreakable covenant relationship with Him. We took Him to be our God. And He took us to be His people. He is a holy and righteous God, who will not tolerate any sin. This relationship with God must bring about fundamental changes in the way we relate to others, and especially in the way we relate with non-Christians around us. We may still enjoy each other's company and conversation for a time, but as we grow in our love for Christ, while most of our non-Christian friends remain unreceptive to the gospel, a painful parting of ways inevitably comes. 

Usually, however, the pain of losing close friends is amply compensated by the joy of making new friends with like-minded Christians in church or in fellowship groups. We develop new relationships that are closer and more meaningful than the ones we used to have, because there is now an added dimension in the relationship: a spiritual dimension.

But our relationships with non-Christians are not over yet, because our daily interaction with people at home or in the course of our work or studies still brings us into contact with them. And God never intended us to isolate ourselves completely from society. In fact the Lord wants us to still be in the world, and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13,14). For it is only through their relationship with us that they will have the opportunity to learn about Christ and be saved. 

But while God wants us to be in the world, He also wants us to be careful not to be of the world (John 17:15,16). This means that ultimately we must strike a balance in our relationships with them. On one hand we must be close enough to them to influence them for Christ, but on the other hand we must not be so close to them as to be influenced by them away from Christ. Striking this balance is not an easy thing to do. Two guidelines should be followed closely.

Guard yourself from being influenced to compromise your loyalty of God.

You must not allow anyone to compromise your relationship with God, even if they are people who are very close to you. King Solomon with all of his great God-given wisdom could not resist the strong influence of his 700 wives and 300 concubines. Most of them were gifts to him from neighbouring nations that sought his favour. But these women brought their pagan idol worship into Jerusalem and gradually led Solomon into idolatry (1 Kings 11:4-6). This brought the whole nation of Israel from the heights of its golden age of spiritual and material prosperity all the way down into the depths of sinful darkness and destruction! 

There are some who believe that in order to win non-Christians to Christ, they must identify with them and come down to their level, even to the point of adopting the same kind of appearance, language and worldly lifestyle that they have. They think that this was what the apostle Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:22 "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." So in order to reach out to those who frequent discos and other night spots, they actually join in with them, going to these places and doing whatever their non-Christian friends do, hoping that this would give them the opportunity to communicate the gospel to them. But what usually happens is the very opposite. The non-Christian asks them, "How is it that you, a Christian, can indulge in all these things with us?" This kind of evangelism is known as infiltration, and it does not work.

If you have a long-standing relationship with a friend who is a non-Christian and all your efforts to influence him for Christ are not producing any results, and it is starting to have an adverse influence on you spiritually, then you should seriously consider ending the relationship. But what if the relationship that is affecting your commitment to God is not just a friendship, but a family bond? What if your parents are the non-Christians who are influencing you against Christ? Then you cannot just leave and separate yourself from their influence. Instead you have to resist it. There may be times when issues like ancestor worship, eating food that has been offered to idols, and Chinese funeral rites will surface. And because you love and respect your parents and do not want to upset them, it might be quite tempting to just do everything they want you to do. Then you must remember the important principle that no matter how much you may want to please your loved ones, you cannot compromise your loyalty to God. 

One way you can avoid unpleasant confrontations is to talk plainly about these issues long before critical situations arise. If a Chinese festival is coming, it is good to tell them a few weeks beforehand that you cannot eat the food that will be offered to idols. This will give them time to get used to the idea.

Do not become unequally yoked with them.

The Scriptures clearly demarcate a line that you must never cross when you build relationships with non-Christians. Once you cross that line, you become unequally yoked. This term is taken from 2 Corinthians 6:14 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"

1. In Courtship and Marriage

If you involve yourself in a relationship that compromises your holiness you would be going against the Lord. This is especially the case in courtship and marriage. This is where you have to be very careful. I say this with great emphasis, because I have known so many fine Christian brothers and sisters who ended up marrying non-Christians, even though they knew full well what the Bible says about unequally yoked partnerships. 

The question is often raised, "I know it is wrong to marry a non-Christian, but can I go out for a date with one?" Please realise that this is a dangerous thing to do. Such 'missionary dating' often does not lead the non-believer to Christ but leads the couple deeper and deeper into a steady relationship that becomes harder to break. The non-believer may appear to be open and tolerant at first but as soon as the relationship is steady enough, he may take his stand against going to church, prayer and reading the Bible. In the process the believer's spiritual life suffers severe backsliding.

Time after time single Christian men and women find themselves attracted to non-Christians by a love that is not from God. Probably no committed Christian ever sets out purposely to fall in love with a non-Christian. They start out as friends or even casual acquaintances. The critical point when the faith of single Christians is put to the test, is when the friendship crosses the line into a dating relationship, a relationship which is exclusive to some extent. Single Christians must be very careful and selective about whom they should and should not date. Why? Because for most men and women, some date will eventually lead to marriage. While the purposes of dating go beyond just looking for a marriage partner, the fact is that the majority of marriages begin with a dating relationship. 

When a Christian deliberately marries a non-Christian, he has fallen into two grievous errors: Firstly, the Christian has disobeyed God's explicit command "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: . . ." Secondly, the Christian has broken the First Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Because he has made an unholy and unsaved sinner an object of greater love than God, he has mocked God to His face!

Dear Reader, what should matter most to you is not whether "she is all that you've ever wanted" or whether "he is the man of your dreams." What should matter to you most is whether he or she is the one that God wants you to marry. This is one instance where you must be fully controlled by your mind and the Word of God. You must not allow your heart to take over the control from your mind. As Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" 

What should you do if you are already involved in a dating relationship with a non-Christian? Although breaking up will be a painful experience, it is better for you to bear the pain than to grieve the Lord your God. 

2. In Business Partnerships

This same principle also applies to a Christian who enters into a close business partnership with a non-Christian. You may think that the prospects for success in such a partnership are very good, but there is no firm assurance that you will prosper. Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Differences will be encountered. The non-Christian partner will not have the same ethical principles as the Christian partner. The Christian will probably end up making the compromises. 

The awful consequences of entering into a business partnership with a non-believer can be seen in the story of King Jehoshaphat's shipping venture with the ungodly King Ahaziah. 2 Chronicles 20:35-37 "And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish."

Someone may say, "I have a non-Christian business partner, but my business is doing extremely well. God is apparently blessing it." Please do not be mistaken. Prosperity should never be used as the criterion to judge if something is right or wrong. Even the wicked prosper, but this does not mean that God is blessing them and that He approves of their wickedness. Psalm 73 reveals that He is allowing the wicked to prosper, for their greater destruction! The only criterion that we must use is the Word of God. 

Let the Word of God have the final say in all your relationships. Do not become unequally yoked with unbelievers. God has promised in 2 Corinthians 6:17,18 "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25