Look with me at Nehemiah 13:1-3:
On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. And in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God,  for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing.  As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.
We find from the Word of God that certain restrictions were placed on who could come into the Temple and who could not. Here, the particular restriction was on the Ammonite and the Moabite. This passage in Nehemiah gives some of the issue, but Deuteronomy 23:3-6 is where this particular rule arose: “… because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.” So while the Israelites were coming from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Ammonites and Moabites refused to help.
We see the same issue happening not just in times of worship, but also in the homes as well. Neh. 13:23-24:
In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but the language of each people.
What was their reaction? Concerning the worship, we see that they responded nicely to the Word. “As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.” The reaction to the issue in the home was a bit more severe:
And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.  Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin.  Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” (Nehemiah 13:25-27, ESV).
What is happening here? Is God trying to tell us not to associate with any individuals who are not Christians? No, in fact in 1 Corinthians 9, he says,
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-22, ESV),
Earlier in the same letter he notes that we must not believe that we as Christians are to separate ourselves from those who are not Christians, “otherwise,” as Paul says, “We would have to leave this world” (1 Corinthians 5:10).
Some use this and other passages to say, “This means that we are to separate from other races.” Those of us who understand recent history in our country may truly struggle with these passages. They watch PBS specials and see how the evangelical whites of the South treated the blacks, even to the point of turning them away from their white worship services. This mindset grew so thick that they would take the verse from 2 Cor. 6:14-17 and use it for race:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you.
The problem was never race — nor will it be race. The problem is worship. We must not unite with anyone in any spiritual enterprise that the Spirit does not endorse — namely, those who deny the nature, work, and word of our Lord Jesus Christ. To say that not being unequally yoked together means that this refers to differing races means that they are not equal and that one is superior, while the other inferior. Yet, does this not deny that God made all humanity in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27)?
So let’s get it right. Don’t let the 1960s or any other portion of American history or American prejudice skew the way we look at the Holy Scriptures.
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