Mailbag V

by Ed Urzi

It’s time once again for another edition of The Doctor’s Mailbag. There have been an overwhelming number of Biblical questions received here at The Doctor’s Secret Command Center (a total of three e-mails, a scribbled postcard and two unintelligible faxes) and The Doctor has been busily applying his considerable brainpower to their answers. So now without further delay, let’s get to your questions…

Luke 6:37 says, "forgive and you will be forgiven". I thought we were already forgiven by Jesus' death on the cross.

That’s right- our sins are already forgiven when we accept Jesus’ death on the cross. For instance, John 3:36 tells us that “…all who trust him– God’s Son– to save them have eternal life; those who don’t believe and obey him shall never see heaven, but the wrath of God remains upon them.” So what does Luke 6:37 mean? Well, let’s take a closer look at this verse to see if we can get a better idea of what Jesus is saying…

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (NIV).
To answer this question, it’s important to remember the context that each Bible verse fits into. The word “context” means “the part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.” (1) In other words, the surrounding chapters and verses help determine what each individual Bible verse means. The context of each Biblical verse is important in helping us understand what God is saying to us through His Word.

This is important because once verses begin to be quoted outside their proper context, it’s possible to make the Bible say some very unbiblical things. Take this statement for example…

Psalm 14:1 says that there is no God.
Therefore the Bible teaches that God does not exist.

Now if you read Psalm 14:1 you’ll find that it does say the words “there is no God” but this statement takes that verse totally out of context! If we look at the verse a little more closely we find that it actually says something very different…

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’…” (NIV emphasis added)

So you can see that it’s very important to look at the preceding and following material when trying to understand a Biblical difficult passage.

So let’s put this principle to work in answering this question. If we check out the context of Luke 6:37 we find that Jesus is in the middle of teaching His followers about what their relationship towards others should be. In this particular passage, Jesus is speaking about forgiving others who have sinned against us, not God forgiving us for our sins. What this verse is saying is that we should follow God’s good example: as He has forgiven us, so we also should forgive others. If we are forgiving and do not condemn or act judgmental towards others then we will receive the same treatment.

So whenever you come across a difficult passage, spend some time looking at the surrounding verses so you can set up the proper context. You might just find those “problem verses” becoming a lot less of a problem!

Recently I came across a Bible verse that is bothering me. It’s Luke 14:26. Am I really supposed to hate my parents?

Ok, let’s look at what this verse says…

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26 NIV).

This is one of those situations where a little knowledge about the languages that the Bible was originally written in can really be helpful. For example, the New Testament passage above was originally written in Greek and when you check into it, it turns out that the Greek word for “hate” that’s used in this verse has several shades of meaning. For example, this word can mean…

  • to detest
  • a feeling of aversion from what is evil
  • to love less (as in, “I hate turnips more than broccoli”)

Now we know from the Ten Commandments that we are supposed to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12) so the first definition (“to detest”) can’t apply. The second definition (“an aversion to evil”) also doesn’t apply here. That leaves us with the third definition (“to love less”) which definitely fits the context. So in Luke 14:26, Jesus is teaching that we must put Him first in all things. Everything else -even someone’s own life and family- must take second place to following Him.

What does "unequally yoked" mean? Also, can you be unequally yoked with a believer?

To help answer your question let’s first take a look at the Biblical verse that you are referring to…

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14 NKJ)

To help understand this verse, let’s think for a moment about what a yoke does. For those of you who may not know what a yoke is, it’s actually pretty simple. A yoke is a device that is placed between two animals to unite them together when pulling a load or a plow. If the two animals are unequally yoked then one of them may have to pull harder than the other or (worse) one of them may pull in a different direction.

This same idea can also be applied spiritually. For example, if a Christian is “yoked” together with a non-Christian, the Christian will never see any spiritual support or encouragement from his/her non-Christian partner. In other words, the Christian partner will have to “pull harder” in this sense because they are spiritually alone. In the worst scenario, the two partners will find themselves pulling in different directions, an impossible situation when two people are “yoked” together as in marriage.

Unfortunately, it’s usually the non-Christian partner who pulls the Christian away from Christ in these types of relationships. This is why Christian/non-Christian dating relationships are bad, bad, bad! Stay away from them!

The Doctor doesn’t believe that two believers can be “unequally yoked” in this sense. However, a situation where one partner is spiritually mature and one is spiritually immature can certainly cause some problems. The spiritually mature partner may have to shoulder more of the load in prayer, faith and spiritual counsel until the other partner “catches up” so to speak. Of course, there is no guarantee that a spiritually immature person will ever become spiritually mature. This is why spiritual maturity is a very important thing to consider when you’re looking for Mr. or Ms. “Right.”


Do you have a question for The Doctor? Just send it to the email address above- you’ll get a personal reply and you just might see it answered here.

(1) The American Heritage Dictionary third edition