Sunday, March 20, 2011

Unequally Yoked

For over a decade now, I have traveled as a missionary lodging at various places where I usually didn't have to pay rent. At the time of this writing, I am seeking a home of my own instead of constantly living out of a suitcase. One day I browsed through the website Craigslist thinking I could find a fellow believer who already has a home and is looking for a roommate. However, I noticed this disclaimer at the top of the Craigslist housing ads…

“Stating a discriminatory preference in a housing post is illegal - please flag discriminatory posts as prohibited.”

One example cited by the Federal Fair Housing Act as a “discriminatory advertisement” is stating the religious preference of a desired applicant. This means if I had my own house or apartment and sought a roommate, I couldn’t legally advertise my wanting another Christian living with me. This reminds me of an incident that occurred last July where a Michigan woman faced a civil rights complaint after posting an ad on her church bulletin board seeking a Christian roommate.

God-fearing people are often accused of being intolerant when setting limitations in line with Scripture. Yet there are times we must “discriminate” and avoid close contact with selected people. 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 warns, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever.” These verses are most often used to advise single Christians not to marry non-Christians. I’ve heard many stories of believers getting hitched to non-believers thinking that will help them win their significant others to the Lord. Often those marriages end in divorce.

Being “unequally yoked” can apply to other situations such as business partnerships and especially roommates. Certain boundaries need to be set if a believer is to have a home that is truly a place of refuge. Personally I couldn’t handle living with someone who smokes, constantly plays ungodly music, or practices witchcraft.

Of course, not all professing Christians make good roommates. During my travels, I have stayed with some difficult people. Several years ago while visiting Florida, a man whom I’ll call “Bernie” invited me to stay in his home. Shortly after moving in with him, I discovered that Bernie was a beer drinker. The next day I had a vision of a beer truck crashing into his house. I felt led to warn Bernie that “his house would collapse” if he continued drinking. Bernie rejected the warning claiming that God often spoke to him while he drank. Over the next few days, Bernie’s behavior worsened. While I tried to sleep, he watched R-rated movies late at night, stomped on the floor, and hollered out curse words. Eventually, I had to move out since Bernie continued giving place to the devil with his drinking.

Another time I lived with a widower who once went on a missionary trip and so I had the whole house to myself for three weeks. I tried to make use of the privacy by fasting and praying but had a difficult time entering into the presence of God. When I talked to a pastor about this, he correctly discerned it was due to certain objects in the house. My roommate still held onto idols that belonged to his deceased wife, a Buddhist of Japanese ancestry. A fellow missionary who also occasionally stayed at the house had encouraged this man to do some “spiritual housecleaning” a few weeks before. When my roommate returned from his trip, I advised him to get rid of additional items but he was opposed to the idea. Not long afterward, we started having other differences and I knew it was time for me to move on.

God has used situations like these to help me grow in Christian character. Nevertheless, 1 Corinthians 5:11 commands, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.”

There are exceptions when the Lord wants us temporarily residing somewhere for the purpose of ministering to the lost. In Luke 19, Jesus briefly stayed at the home of a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Keep in mind that Zacchaeus initially sought after Jesus by climbing a sycamore tree to see Him. Later the tax collector showed remorse for his unethical business practices and said in verse 8, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

In October 1996, I made a temporary move to Toronto, Canada. During my first four nights there, I stayed at a youth hostel. The first night I shared a room with a young German man and led him to the Lord. Eventually, God led me to a home available to Christians attending revival meetings in the city.

Another time in San Antonio, Texas, I found myself needing lodging and spent one night at the Salvation Army where I got to lead four homeless people to salvation. There was also a time in Spain when I shared a room with a Muslim from Algeria. He asked me many questions about Christianity. Many spiritual seeds were planted.

God might also lead you to temporarily take in an unsaved person who is in need of lodging and medical care. Jesus talked about this in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

Still, we need to use discernment and not extend hospitality to every person who knocks on our door. Christians would be wise not to share their home with people who consistently challenge their faith in Jesus. Look at 1 John 2…

9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;
11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

So don’t let worldly people talk you into being unequally yoked with roommates who will give you constant trouble. God wants us to have homes that are like heaven on earth.

“My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” - Isaiah 32:18

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