We are probably one of the most connected generations of all time. We can speak to people across the globe on our phones. We can e-mail them, FaceTime them, text-message them. We live in a world that seeks connection, wants community, preaches peace and tolerance, and loves diversity. One world united together in love—that’s the political dream of our day.
And many churches and professing Christians eat this up. Let’s get all religions together under one roof. Let’s forget our differences. We are all the same underneath, right? Let’s not highlight our differences. Let’s focus on what brings us together. Yet, this flies in the face of Paul’s words to the church in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”
That’s not very loving, is it? In the first half of verse 17, he is even more damning: “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord.” Go out from them. Separate from them. That sounds a bit intolerant, right? It doesn’t seem loving. Yet this kind of language is all over the Bible. James 4:4 is equally strong: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” So, what is going on here? Why is the Bible so harsh? How can we live as Christians and be separate from the world? Should I be thinking about buying a plot of land in the desert and starting a Christian commune?
When Paul wrote these words, the church in Corinth was a mess. So-called Christians were engaged in open sin and all sorts of moral and theological compromise. Paul was keen to remind them that a relationship with Jesus was to be exclusive. So, for example, Christians could not claim to worship Jesus and visit the temple prostitutes that were common in Corinth in the first century.
To drive his point home, Paul asks five questions in a row: “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? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14–16).
The expected answer to these questions is “none” or “nothing.” Christians live to please God. Unbelievers live to please themselves.
Christians are called to walk in the light. Unbelievers walk in darkness. Colossians 1:13 puts it this way: “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Jesus is the light of the world, and believers are drawn to Him like moths to a candle, but as for the rest of mankind, they “love[d] darkness rather than light because their deeds [are] evil” (John 3:19).