THE MISSING PEACE
We’ve heard about the ”missing piece to the puzzle” frequently it implies the search for an answer to a problem or mystery before us. How about the “missing peace” to life though? Doesn’t it seem if we had a sense of true peace in our lives the “missing pieces” would be easier to handle?
I’ve been a Christian for 36 years. At 16 I stepped forward at an invitation to receive Christ at a Christian concert where a band called “Sweet Comfort” was playing. My youth pastor Chuck , had brought us all to the event I’m glad he did. It might have been a different life if I didn’t hear the message of peace offered that evening in 1979! Then I spent the next 32 years trying to find “the peace” offered that night.
In the 11th Chapter of Matthew we find one of the best know statements of Jesus. In fact it’s regularly used when sharing faith, Heck I’ve used it when speaking publically myself! It goes like this:
“Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light and you shall find rest for weary souls.”
Now let’s consider the source for a minute, its Jesus, pretty good company and certainly credible when it comes to spiritual matters, so we can trust the statement. Why then, do so few Christians actually fail to find the rest He’s talking about? If I had one word used to characterize most Christians I would not use the word “peaceful!” More like “driven” comes to mind! Really, most of us appear driven overwhelmed by the responsibility of life one after another day by day, it goes on and never seems to stop. We attend church we join small groups, we go to retreats and seminars but in our heats of hearts, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we in fact or very few of us anyway, actually have peace.
Was Jesus lying? He says His yoke is easy and His burden is light?
Time to dig. When Jesus makes this statement to the crowd that day, He’s just delivered a stinging rebuke of the non responsiveness of most of the towns he had been performing miracles in. (Jesus didn’t always land hard on just the religious rulers) It’s the part where He says, Woe to you, Chorazin, Woe to you Bethsaida, Woe to you Capernaum! Jesus knew the best thing those folks had ever seen (Himself) had walked right through their midst and most of them had missed it.
Jesus invitation, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden..” is for the man or woman burdened, its figurative of course speaking of the weight of life. It’s a direct appeal, “Are you tired of being tired”? ’ those who heard it and related to it knew exactly what He meant. I did 39 years ago. Even at sixteen I was tired of life. Imagine the folks in the towns he reached out to living under the crushing oppression of a foreign government and taxed to the point of strangulation with no hope in site! There weren’t bank accounts so you could store some cash to go to the grocery store and take advantage of the sales for the week! Populations for the most part spent what they had at the end of the day to feed themselves and their families. The word picture “weary and heavy laden”, had traction, it resonated, it still does today. We are a weary people.
But hear the promise, “and I will give you rest……” Who in the world has ever made such a statement and been able to deliver on it? Think of the Hoopla and promises of our political elections and the promises we hear in preparation for the next one! Are you at rest? Jesus promises it so far we’re good, we can track what He’s saying. Now here’s the command, it’s conditional and not separate from the promise…
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest for your souls….
Those words jump off the page. The “yoke”, is the wooden mechanism fixed around the ox’s neck that connects the animal to the plow and allows the farmer to control the animals direction for the purpose of preparing a field to produce crops. Aaaaaah…. Have we really appreciated what Jesus has just said?
If it’s His yoke, who’s the animal, figuratively speaking?
If the yoke offered belongs to Jesus, He’s the owner of the farm we are the ox that needs purpose and He’s the driver.
And this is the point most of us fall flat on our face because the next statement Jesus makes has little or nor truth in the life of most Christians.
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light…”
Ok so Jesus credibility is on the line, either “the yoke” is easy producing the light burden or its not and for most Christians, unfortunately it’s not light at all! The spiritual truth promised by Jesus is perfectly clear it means “Taking on Jesus, as the driver is supposed to produce the following reality, His “yoke”, or his directing our life as an alternative to what we have been doing is easy comparatively and what we have to carry as a burden after taking on His yoke is light. It’s life before Christ vs. life after Christ or life with Christ or life without Him!
So where’s the problem? Well, I’ll argue it’s not with Jesus!
Where most Christians fail is in response to Jesus invitation. The call to new life is received with joy sure enough, but in short order somehow “faith” invariably translates Jesus invitation into a frustrating attempt to redefine the new life wrestling with what can still remain and what has to go. We’re not even remotely concerned or disciplined for that matter with Jesus orienting the yoke for the purpose of producing purpose in our lives as much as we’re focused with maintaining just enough of our own control and worse our own understanding. We are like an “unbroken ox” fighting against the direction of the driver. Hardly a peaceful picture right? It’s the picture of a miserable struggle between ox and a farmer battling all day, wearing each other out and failing to accomplish the job, preparing the field, which by the way is our life, to develop a purpose.
Here’s another painful reality. When we barter over what can stay in our life and what has to go, (which by the way Jesus never portrayed as an example of life in Him) we are clinging to the load He promises to relieve from us, life and all of its hopelessness! When we choose to do life the way Jesus recognizes as wearing us out being driven by circumstances we continue to carry the load that produces hopelessness. Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden bringing all your junk with you so we can hitch it up to me and weigh the cart down so heavy we get stuck in the mud!, Is not the promise of Matthew 11:28! The “rest” Jesus talks about always centers on the yoke the ox bears and the willingness to be led. It’s not a half way acceptance of Jesus penetration into our life. It’s all or nothing. Really you ask? Yes, that why two chapters earlier Jesus makes it clear, if you want to find life, you got to lose it. In this is the painful truth of why we fail to experience peace, we simply cling to the burden. The peace Jesus talks about is found in letting go of everything and being willing to be led, I spent 32 in my own journey wrestling with that one and 32 years without peace. I still do to a degree as taking on the yoke is a way of life not a platitude.