“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I’m not sure what to say about this passage. It puzzles me.
It puzzles me because of other of Jesus’ sayings like, “If a man would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” How on earth do they fit together?
I could give you the theological answer, and it would help some. It would help sort the puzzle. But it’s not the theological conundrum that puzzles me. It’s the lived experience.
For those of you who are like me, you love the doctrine of grace. You love it for the times when you are keenly aware of your sin. You see that Jesus paid it all and that your guilt is no more. You see that God forgives you in Christ for even the things you’re not aware of. He rescued you, brought you to life. No longer do you have to bear the weight of justifying yourself to the world. So his burden is easy and light.
But if you’re like me, too, then you know the burden of legalism, that crafty vice of comparison and performance. You look around and justify yourself by what you’ve accomplished, by how much you’ve done and how well you’ve done it. You know you’re not the best, but at least you’re doing better than those other people. Sometimes my first instinct at pastoral counsel is, “Get your life together.” Needless to say that is not helpful or good.
But how do you live from the place of grace? How do you live forgiven, under the lighter burden of grace? Are we so accustomed to the heavy burdens of legalism that we don’t know how to live without the weight of it on our backs? Do we create more burdens than he would lay on us, try even to take the burdens of others that we weren’t meant to carry? Perhaps.
But what I’m confident of is that Jesus wants us to believe him. I’m confident that he’s patient and gentle in teaching us what he means. And I know for certain that I want only his burden, only his yoke. I pray he would teach me again and again which is his, and which I should put down (again).
Jesus, have mercy. Teach us to walk with you in your grace.