There are a few times in the Bible when a yoke is mentioned. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In 2 Corinthians 6:14 we are told not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” What exactly is yoke though? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a yoke is “a bar or frame that is attached to the heads or necks of two work animals (such as oxen) so that they can pull a plow or heavy load.” So, what? Does Jesus want us to wear wooden bars around our necks? No, not exactly… at least not actually, but figuratively speaking, yes He does! Let me explain how what these two verses mean and then I’ll explain how I think they correlate with each other.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Over and over again, Jesus makes it more than clear that we, as Christians, will have many burdens to carry while we are on this earth. He also makes it perfectly clear that we are not to carry them alone. Instead we are to share a yoke with Him and He will help us carry our heavy burdens. In the modern way of speaking, He’s basically saying, “Hey! Stop stressing! You don’t have to worry and fuss. Just come to me and I’ll help you out. I’ll give you a reason to feel well-rested, joyful, and hopeful! So, take a breath and just chill!” Easier said than done, sure, but that’s exactly why it’s important to constantly remind ourselves of this passage in Scripture, because Jesus is the real deal Superman who can and will carry whatever burden will throw at Him, because He’s God and He can lift anything and everything on just His pinky finger, ya know?
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” When you get married, you and your spouse become one being. You no longer have separate burdens, but instead, your burdens also become one and you carry each other’s burdens equally, or at least you should carry each other’s burdens equally. Therefore, before you get married you have to make sure you and your potential spouse to be are not unequally yoked. In other words, you have to make sure your basic belief systems are the same. If your spouse to be does not share your deepest convictions, then you will most likely face problems if you get married. If you are a Christian and He is an atheist, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or even a Jew, then odds are you neither have the same basic beliefs, nor the same deep convictions. That makes you unequally yoked and being unequally yoked will only breed trouble, especially if you have children and you each try to raise them up in your own personal beliefs. Marriage is sacred relationship created by God and He does not want you to constantly battle with your unequally yoked spouse. If you were both oxen, it would be like one of you is 10 feet tall while the other is only 5 feet tall. There would be no way for your yoke to be equally balanced, which is what God means when He tells us not to be unequally yoked.
Now, I believe these two passages tie together perfectly. Before we can even think about being equally or unequally yoked with a potential spouse, we must first be yoked with Jesus. Every day we must take up our cross, which would be our burden, and hand it over to Jesus, who will in turn give us His burden and share our yokes with us so that we will not fall over because it is unbalanced. The same is true for our potential spouses. One day, I hope to marry a wonderful man and live happily ever after, but I will never be able to do that unless he—the man God will one day have me marry—first trades his heavy burden for Jesus’ much lighter burden and shares His yoke. Then, he and I will have to way our burdens (convictions and belief system) together and measure whether the yoke Jesus has given us will be well-balanced when we try to carry it together. If it is equally balanced our three yokes are equal—my personal yoke with Jesus, his personal yoke with Jesus, and our yoke together—then we’re in the right place and we can proceed to get married.
Long explanation short: there are two kinds of yokes that every Christian can carry. The yoke that we share with Christ and the yoke most of us will one day share with a spouse. And, the most important thing to remember is that we first carry a yoke with Jesus and then carry a yoke with our spouse or spouse to be.