Who are you walking with?

I love going for hikes and God has allowed me to live in a place where there are more hikes than I can ever hope to do! Over the years one thing that has become clear is that when hiking in the mountains you should always have a partner. A partner is important for safety,

for encouragement when the path gets difficult and for the pleasure of sharing the journey together. There have been hikes where I’ve found myself alone without a partner because our group has been spread out over the trail or I’ve been walking with a person with either a faster or slower pace than what I preferred or was capable of. Walking alone can be dangerous, especially if there are bears in the woods, and walking with a weaker or stronger partner can be difficult to cope with. There are choices to be made when being unequally paired.
Paul’s message to the Corinthians was free of extraneous and burdensome teaching. This was Paul’s ambition as he contextualized the Gospel for the Corinthians. However Paul did not bypass those things that were stumbling blocks to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. (2 Cor. 6:3) There are somethings that can’t be avoided when we desire to follow Christ.
A Gospel that was not burdensome could easily become a license for sinful living (Rom. 6:1). Sin’s pull on our body is so strong that we are quickly dragged into all kinds of activities that seem harmless but actually introduce impurity into our lives (Romans 7:14-20, 1 Peter 5:8).  So Paul turns to an issue that was dragging the community of believers down. He could see that the community was being contaminated in body and spirit and it was his role as their spiritual father to help them identify and deal with the contamination. So he puts his finger on the point that hurts, the association of believers with non-believers.
Paul tells the Corinthians “do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” (2 Cor. 6:14) There is no indication here of in what context the believer should not be bound together with an unbeliever, only a simple statement is given. So it is left to the community of Christ to apply the principal. Commonly we apply this statement to marriage and business partnerships but are there other areas where we could be bound together?
Paul asks a question that will help us know where to apply this principle but it’s easily missed as we read through the paragraph. He asks “what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:15)
Anytime that our faith in Christ, the principles by which Christ calls us to live or our world view rub up against those of an unbeliever and bring us into conflict as we seek to advance in a common project we are unequally bound together. So it seems that not all interactions with unbelievers are forbidden for followers of Christ. Nonetheless the Corinthians are told that when our faith creates a rupture in what we had in common we are faced with a type of bond that actually contaminates the the body and spirit. The pull of sin on the flesh is so strong that we are easily prone to let down our guard.
This was Paul’s very own testimony to the Romans in Romans 7:14ff where we call almost hear him screaming out “Argh! I know what to do but I don’t do it and I know what not to do and still I give in and do that very thing!” Peter tells us too that Satan himself is there like a lion coaching in the the tall grass waiting his chance to pounce on us. (1 Peter 5:8)
When we let down our guard this sin is quick to slip through the crack in our defenses to infiltrate our lives as a contaminate waiting it’s opportunity to drag us further away. The only cure for this is found in Paul’s exhortation for the Corinthians to purify themselves. (2 Cor. 7:1)
The Holy Spirit is telling us that we need to pay attention to our associations and to whom we commit ourselves. On one hand we are told to remove every hindrance, stumbling block, from our message but then we are reminded to pay close attention to whom we are bond. Within freedom there is a careful scrutiny of how and with whom we live. Freedom never means the unbridled right to do whatever we desire, this would lead to chaos. Even in free societies it is understood that our personal freedom only goes as far as it does not encroach on the freedom of my neighbour. In the same way my spiritual freedom goes only as far as it does not lead me into a place of disobedience to the clear standards that Christ has given us to live by. To compromise those standards in a union between the follower of Christ and an unbeliever will lead us away from Christ and into sin.

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