Sunday, June 08, 2008

"My yoke is easy..."

Before I begin, I want to congratulate Misha, a blogger I've known for ages but had lost track of. She has just graduated with an English literature degree - and not just graduated, but with magna cum laude, which means "with great honours." Very very neat. (Hey, I was finally able to link to something.) Whenever I've read Misha's blog I've wished I could be a student again - and learn, learn, learn. I always did love school. I envy you, Misha.

At Living Room on Friday I'm planning on discussing Matthew 11:28-30, a passage that has in the past had a huge impact on me:

Jesus said, "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."

That's such a wonderful thing to read when you're going through tough times, especially when you haven't made God part of your life before! I guess these verses meant most to me when I was just in the process of becoming a Christian. (Yes, getting onboard did not happen to me all in one fell swoop.)

A yoke is a contraption that links two animals like oxen together so they can pull farm equipment. It can also be something a person wears, in Asian countries, for example, with something - like a bucket for example - hanging from each end. It is used to carry burdens.

A yoke suggests something oppressive; it suggests bondage. When we put on Christ's yoke, we are bound to Him. We surrender our own will. His yoke brings our passions and desires for the sinful ways of the world under control. The yoke allows Jesus to guide our thoughts and actions, so we'll follow His ways.

When I decided to come to Jesus and take His yoke upon me some twenty years ago, I welcomed it. I needed guidelines for my life. It meant that I finally had something meaningful to live for. The reason for my life became clearer to me. The yoke was easy and the burden was light. It wasn't oppressive at all. In fact, it was freeing.

In my new book, A Firm Place to Stand, I tell a story about a young boy who did not receive rules from his parents. One day he was finally given some very specific rules. And that made him very very happy. He felt cared for; he felt that his Mom was paying attention to what he did. That's what that yoke is like for me. It's the yoke of a loving Father.

In his sermon today, Pastor Don said something that I wonder about. He said that when we start following Christ things can become harder because we are no longer our own god. Life no longer revolves around us. I don't know if I agree with that. It certainly wasn't true for me.

How about you? What has Christ's yoke meant to you in your life? Was it hard at first? Do you find His burden (joining Him in His work) hard to carry?


Jena said...

I always understood the yoke to be the burden that his heavy for us, but easy for him. That's why we cast our cares and burdens upon him because he can handle it when we can't and we can then have rest.

I believe that God said that we are to have "No other Gods" before him. Including ourselves. I think he created us in his image, as his children, but he is the Sovereign Almighty. So i would agree with your Pastor.

marja said...

Hi Jena,
One commentary I read on this passage is that the yoke joins two - and that would here mean us and Jesus. Jesus helps us carry the burden. The yoke is our being bound to Him to follow His ways. The yoke is the way God wants us to live.

Pastor Don also said that this passage was written for people living with the complex Jewish laws, which were heavy and burdensome - this was the yoke of the Jews. Jesus's yoke, on the other hand, is easy and His burden is light, because He helps us carry it. And the law is much simpler, with love its fundamental basis.

What I found puzzling about Pastor Don's comment was that learning to live as a Christian could be harder than living without Christ. I hadn't found that to be the case.

Jena said...

Well in that case, I think some people would find that living as a Christian is harder than living without Christ because it is hard to constantly be trusting in God and not trusting ourselves. That is something that we learn over a long period of time and it takes wisdom. We fight a strong spiritual battle and we often feel tired an want to give up instead look to God.

I know that when we follow God his ways are better and he makes life easier for us. But it is in our human nature to fall into temptation and sin, so we're constantly in this cycle of sin annd repentence, then grace and forgiveness. It can be tiring.

For that reason, I think that it takes a lot of wisdom and knowing God well in your heart to have that constant joy that Paul talks about and to be able to persevere through all trials. Not easy, no, but brings great blessing, yes.

misha said...

marja -- thanks for the mention. it's been years hasn't it? time flies.

marja said...

Jena: You're absolutely right. It does take perseverance. I know I often forget to remember that I need to stay close to God, the world is too much with us.

But it has been my experience that, when I realize I'm forgetting God and ask him to help me stay close, he answers my prayer.