There’s a question we want you and your fiancé to soberly consider: “Are we going in the same spiritual direction?” In other words, are both of you authentic Christians who are pursuing God and spiritual maturity?
What does it mean to be equally yoked?
Because marriage is a spiritual relationship, your spiritual compatibility will influence the quality of your relationship more than any other factor. Consider this passage from 2 Corinthians 6:14–15:
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?
Most of us are only familiar with egg yolks, so this passage can sound pretty strange. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals (typically oxen) and attached to a plow or cart that they pull as a team.
According to Deuteronomy 22:10, God’s people weren’t allowed to yoke, say, a donkey and an ox, because if one animal was stronger than the other, one was often pulling the weight while the other couldn’t keep up. Plus the plow would cut through the ground erratically, and sometimes ineffectively, because the two animals were out of sync. It was an inhumane match of ability and disposition that didn’t lead to a team being happy and effective in their work together.
The challenges of being unequally yoked
Tracking with this metaphor, if Jesus is at the center of your life, why would you want to be hitched to someone who has nothing in common with you spiritually? If you are “unequally yoked” in your marriage, sooner or later you’ll pull against each other, and that will lead to heartbreak, grief, and frustration.
Second Corinthians 6:14–15 warns Christians about building their lives with someone who has clashing values and goals. Building relationships on God’s values, trust, and love is essential.
Another warning is given in James: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 NASB).
Trust me, it can be hard enough to prevent our hearts from being lured into “loving the world” (being controlled by pride, greed, and divisiveness) even when your spouse is also pursuing God and encouraging you. God created marriage, and its maximum satisfaction can only be found when you both have a growing relationship with Him.
When Christians marry non-Christians, they usually experience a growing, unique frustration after marriage because:
- They are unable to discuss the most precious, intimate part of their life with their spouse.
- They often have conflicting goals and expectations.
- They may clash over the values they teach their kids.
- They will likely have differing circles of friends.
- They can have difficulty communicating and resolving conflict because of different core values in their lives.
If one of you is a Christ follower and the other is not, you need to consider how deeply this will affect your marriage. It’s bigger than a hobby you wish your spouse enjoyed: Following Jesus imprints itself into every aspect of our lives.
As much as you may love each other and envision a beautiful life together, if this is your situation, we’d like to gently suggest some thoughtful time on this very tough question: Should the two of you get married?
Commitment to spiritual growth
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
You may both have decided to follow Christ, but if one of you is more focused on loving the world rather than loving God, you will experience many of the same conflicts as a Christian and non-Christian. Your goals and values will differ. Your lives are going in different directions, serving different bosses.
If you are both growing in Christ, however, you’ll be able to experience a particular exhilaration and teamwork in your marriage.
“What is God’s will for my life?” Many people ask this very good question at various points in their lives. But an even better question would be, “How does my life fit into God’s will and what He’s already doing in the world?”
The second question shifts the focus to the appropriate place—onto God instead of ourselves. It assumes that God is moving and working in the world, and that He’s most important. He is in charge, and whatever He calls us to do, we do, knowing that He will care for us along the way.
Of course, it’s impossible to say how God will actually care for us along the way, since everyone’s life is different, but it’s safe to trust that He will. He’s already working and active in this world, and you and your fiancé will want to repeatedly consider, “How is our marriage fitting into God’s will, which is to ultimately bring God glory?”
It’s critical that you as a couple pursue spiritual growth together alongside your individual growth. Personal growth with the Lord often looks like private time alone with God, reading Scripture, prayer, worship, etc. Spiritual maturity as a couple, however, is something that can be a bit more challenging because there are two people involved with two sets of ideas, preferences, struggles, and ways of processing growth.
You’ll find, though, that growing together spiritually as a married couple is one of the most refreshing and rewarding experiences you can have. Deepening your relationship with the Lord alongside your best friend for years upon years is one of the most generous gifts God gives.
Collective growth as a married couple can look different ways: studying a book of the Bible together, reading a Christian book together and discussing it, praying together, exercising hospitality, listening to or watching sermons together and then sharing your notes and thoughts, etc. There are so many ways a married couple can discover new heights of spiritual development alongside each other—they simply need to collectively commit to it, stay disciplined in the process, and ask the Spirit of God to create the growth in their lives together.
God Himself makes it possible
As Christians, we trust God to work in us and bring life to the dead and weak areas of our lives. And even though buckling down and trying harder isn’t the answer, we do have a role in our spiritual growth. In the same way you can’t make sleep come at night, you can still lie there with the lights off—putting yourself in a good position for it to come. We cooperate with Him through obedience and trust. Understanding and living this out will change your life and your marriage.
Adapted from Preparing for Marriage. Copyright © 2023 by Baker Publishing. All rights reserved.
David and Meg Robbins are passionate about helping people integrate faith and family and equipping them to make a difference in their local communities. David became the President of FamilyLife in 2017. The Robbins have served together in a variety of ministry roles through the years, working primarily with the rising generation in Western Europe, Atlanta, and New York City. David and Meg, married in 2001, currently live in Orlando, Florida, with their four children.