Thursday, November 20, 2008

For His Yoke Is Easy

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," said Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV), "...and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

The New Testament frequently contrasts the way of grace--the "light burden"--with the heavy emotional burden of legalism, that endless catalog of religious rules that tells us we have to do everything right to get to Heaven, and never provides any real assurance that we are in fact saved. The good news of following Christ is that He accepts us regardless of our past sins and present inadequacies--without demanding reparation in advance or threatening to kick us out if we don't do everything properly from then on. He's taken care of our admission tickets to Heaven; all He asks in return is that we let Him show us the best (in every sense of the word) way to live in the present. And He also supplies the strength we need to live that way.

The problem is, many of us who were saved by grace try to live by works. We feel obligated to respond to every perceived need, without asking God if He really wants us to fill them; we browbeat ourselves for sinning, instead of immediately repenting and rejoicing in His forgiveness; and we use the Scriptures as a means to feed our worry about whether we're doing everything right, rather than as a source of guidance and encouragement. No wonder many people dismiss Christianity as "just a bunch of rules."

St. Paul, who himself came out of strict legalism, lets his exasperation with such attitudes show in Galatians 3:1-3: "Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" To use a modern analogy: the road map (the commands of Scripture) can't be put in the gas tank where the fuel (the power of the Spirit) belongs. Not, at any rate, if the car (the Christian life) is to run very smoothly or very far.

If your life is so weighted down with responsibility that you can hardly move, it's time to ask God how much you have added to His own light burden.

You who are struggling feebly,
Bent under life's demands,
Come to the Lord for comfort;
Take mercy from His hands.

You who have found religion
Just a hard crush of rules,
Find in the Lord forgiveness;
Turn from the path of fools.

You who know all too clearly
How weak you are, alone,
Find strengthening in your Savior:
He guides and leads His own.

You, lost in doubts and terrors--
God knows you cannot earn
The grace that He gives freely,
The peace for which you yearn.

Come to the Lord for comfort;
Come to the Lord for rest.
Trust in His power to keep you:
His ways are always best.

No comments: