Monday, June 21, 2021

Choose Your Partner

By Adam Faughn

    Batman & Robin. Mario & Luigi. Macaroni & Cheese. Peanut Butter & Jelly. Romeo & Juliet. Venus & Serena. Tom & Jerry. Mickey & Minnie. Bert & Ernie. Beauty & the Beast. Jordan & Pippen. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.
    Some of these duos were created for fiction. Some of them are food pairs. Others are sports partnerships. Fiction or not, these are some of the most famous partnerships ever assembled.
    Let’s face it: humans were meant to collaborate with others. Remember at the beginning of time, when Adam was the only person created, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone;I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). Animals had already been created, but “there was not found a helper comparable to (Adam),” according to verse 20. After causing a deep sleep to fall on Adam, God took one of Adam’s ribs and formed a woman. Note the conclusion that was drawn from this event in verse 24: “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
    “Joining together” speaks to partnership, collaboration, and relationship. There are various types of relationships: marriage relationships, dating relationships, business relationships, etc. For the partnership to be successful, all involved need to be “on the same page.” Unfortunately, famous married couples often cite irreconcilable differences when they file for divorce, implying that they are no longer aligned in the marriage relationship, nor do they think adjustments can be made to become more aligned in an effort to save the relationship. Likewise, if a business relation-ship dissolves, sometimes the culprit is a lack of chemistry, synergy, and shared beliefs.
    Sharing a set of core beliefs is always useful in any type of relationship. There are certainly risks involved in being partnered with someone who does not share your same values, especially in a religious sense. Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.
14Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?15Andwhat accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
In this section of Scripture, Paul catalogs multiple sets of opposites: righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, believers and unbelievers, and the temple of God and idols. Rhetorically, Paul continually asks how these sets of opposites can ever be engaged in an aligned, useful, and productive partnership when their basic nature automatically puts them at discord.
    I do not think it is ironic that in this same context as 2 Corinthians 6 begins in verse 1, Paul tells the Christians they are “workers together with (Christ).” Verse one comes before verses 14-16, right? In other words, Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that they first are in a relationship with Christ. Later, he wants them to consider if they can be true to that relationship while simultaneously being yoked with unbelievers. Life is already difficult as it is, even when under-girded with a relationship with Christ. Why pile on relationship baggage that could threaten to pull you away from the life Christ wants you to lead?
    I also understand the importance of evangelism and outreach to the unfaithful (Luke 19:10). After all, Jesus Himself was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11). Jesus’ response? ”I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (v. 13). Recognize that Jesus’ association with sinners was aimed toward helping them to realize their unrighteousness and their need for repentance. In effect, Jesus was working for God by being around these sinners.
    Can we say the same? We interact with people on a weekly basis who lack a connection to God and, therefore, are lost in sin (i.e., coworkers, neighbors, friends at the gym, grocery store workers, etc.). They need to be pointed toward God, as Jesus did during his temporary time on earth. Are we trying to show the lost the way to God, or are we letting them influence us?
    There is a natural tension that arises when a believer partners with an unbeliever. As a Christian, our relationship with God is characterized by light and truth, while an unbeliever’s relationship with God does not even exist. Some Christians may opine that they can manage a relationship with God while still being chummy with unbelievers. Absolutely, it may seem like a workable partnership for a time, but will a relationship with an unbeliever be able to withstand the storms of differences and disputes that will eventually happen? Surely, no one would disagree that darkness and light cannot coexist.
    God wants us to evangelize and interact with unbelievers to an extent (Matthew 9:37-38). God does not want us to withdraw from the world completely (Mark 16:15-16). However, that does not mean we enter into a close and intimate partnership with the world that could threaten our healthy relationship with God.
    So, the choice is yours. Who do you choose to be your partner: God or the world?
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.

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