Do you know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves you are slaves to the one you obey? Rom 6:16
We all have a tendency to get ourselves, sometime inadvertently, into various kinds of bondage. We can become slaves to bad habits, to our natural desires, even to our work, to ambition, to money or status. Some may be good things in themselves, but, paradoxically as with Eve, it is usually in the pursuit of freedom that we come under their mastery.
There is no human influence stronger than that of friendship, and God constantly warns us against the foolishness and misery of unwise relationships and gives us guidelines to the lasting joy and strength of right ones.
The unequal yoke
We are told in 2 Corinthians 6:14 to refrain from harnessing ourselves to those with whom we have little in common. To put an ox and an ass into the same yoke is to court trouble. They differ in type, size, pace and mode of action. The yoke will inevitably chafe, and the chafing can only get worse with time. Pulling in different ways their effort is squandered, and the resulting furrow is unlikely to be straight. How foolish to commit ourselves to a marriage partnership, or indeed to any friendship in depth, with one differing from us in beliefs, values and loyalty, and even in very nature, direction and destiny!
The easy yoke
Forbidden to submit to one yoke we are invited to take another, the yoke of Christ himself. In a sense this is also an unequal yoke, since he is the `senior partner' and must make the `going'. Even his yoke can chafe if we persist in our own way, but with our wills aligned to his, the yoke is easy, its restraints do not chafe (1 Jn 5:3), the load we pull is no burden, and we find rest and invigoration even in work (Mt 11:29).
Does this mean that human friendship in depth has no part in the Christian's experience? Far from it! Having submitted to Christ's yoke, we find ourselves true `yokefellows' with those who are like minded and are committed in love and service to the same Master (Phil 4:3). Such partnerships enhance the life and work of each, and increase the fruitfulness of both.
We are all slaves. Whose slave are you?
O Lord, grant me wisdom and discernment in my friendships.
Guard me from foolish choices that will rob me of my freedom to serve you.
May I commit myself only to such as are committed to you that we may
be `yokefellows' in your service.
Further reading: Rom 6:11-18. 1 Cor 6:12,19-20. 2 Cor 6:14-16.