No one ever promised that the Christian walk or being a disciple of Jesus would be easy. There is a commonly mistranslated verse where Jesus tells the disciples, “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 my yoke is good and my burden is light.” Note that I did not say “my yoke is easy…” as that is what most versions say and most people believe.
People take that to mean that if we come to Jesus, everything will be easy. Not true. The word good is often mistranslated as “easy”. And thus believers come to expect things to go smoothly and that being a believer is going to make life better and easier. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, my life was relatively easy before I met Jesus and is not what I would call “easy” at the moment. In one sense, the load is lighter because we carry the burdens of the world together. But He is still telling us to pick up a yoke – His yoke.
“Yoke” had a lot of different meanings. It was the tool used for harnessing animals for farming. It was the word used for taking on the rabbi’s teaching (as Jesus seemed to use it here). Yoke was also the word used for the brutal weight of slavery and oppression that the prophets call us to break (Isaiah 58, among other passages).
One of the things I think Jesus is doing is setting us free from the heavy yoke of an oppressive way of life. The life-style of self-centered consumption and lifeless toil that is both senseless and heavy and self-imposed. This is the yoke we are being set free from.
However, being freed from one yoke – He now asks us to willingly pick up another one. The new yoke is still not easy (it is a cross, for heaven’s sake), but we carry it together (if you believe in Christian community), and it is good (not easy) and leads us to rest and trust in Him. Mother Teresa used to say, “Following Jesus is simple, but not easy. Love until it hurts, and then love more.” Dorthy Day of the Catholic Worker movement understood this well. She said, “Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer.” This love is not sentimental or soft but heart-wrenching, the most difficult and the most beautiful thing in the world.
Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples by our love. And this yoke of love cannot and will not be seen if we don’t willingly say yes to it and then walk it out in every day life where it will be good but never easy. And so true Christians, real converts, followers – disciples of the Lord need to be strong and committed; willing to endure hardship and ridicule; actually loving, forgiving, accepting, and offering love to each and every person they encounter throughout each and every day. Good but not easy.
How about you? Have you willingly picked up His yoke and are you actually walking in sacrifical love with the Lord? Or are you still focusing in on what is in it for you?