My Yoke is Easy

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

 

Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-15
Romans 7:15-25
Matthew 11:16-30

Here are three renderings of verses 28-30 of the Matthew reading.

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 lightNIV

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightlyMSG

Come to me, all of you who are frustrated and have had a bellyful, and I will give you zest. Get in the harness with me and let me teach you, for I am trained and have a cooperative spirit, and you will find zest for your lives. For my harness is practical, and my assignment is joyfulCotton Patch Version

I think it is important to look at how Matthew begins this section. Christians look at the Gospels and wonder why more people cannot see Jesus as the Son of God. Before creation when God, his Son, and the Holy Spirit were discussing the idea of the Son becoming a human so that sin could be defeated; I wonder if they hoped for a better response?

Anyway, here is the opening passage. How shall I describe this generation? They are like kids playing in the streets and shouting at each other, ‘We put on some rock-and-roll, but you wouldn’t dance; so we put on some funeral music, but you wouldn’t go into mourning.’ For John offered a harsh, rugged life, and people say, ‘The guy is nuts.’ I, the son of man, offered laughter and joy, and people say, ‘Look at that guy. He is a no-good bum who runs around with Communists and peaceniks!’ So, if intelligence can be judged by its fruits, well–! Cotton Patch Version I know, Communist and peaceniks are really dated, it was the sixties, but you get the idea.

Jesus says we are never satisfied. We either believe being a follower is too hard or too easy. John did not tell anyone to dress and eat as he did, but people were worried that it might be true. With Jesus, they were worried about the company he kept, and the fact that he attended parties.

The reason Jesus can say, my yoke is easy and my burden is light, is that life is easier when we are happy. It is hard to be happy while doing bad things. The Spirit has a way of nudging us so that we know it is wrong even as we try to convince ourselves it is right. Living the rich life on earth is not good for us. We need to be all about sharing. When everyone is rich, then we can live the rich life. For now, we who have a little extra need to share with those who need a little extra.

Notice that Jesus offers us both a yoke and a burden, easy and light, but still there. The yoke is to care about other people. The burden is to help them. As long as poverty exists; as long as racism exists; as long as people are wrongly arrested; as long as people die of starvation or even go to sleep hungry, we have a burden.

I cannot feed everyone, but all Christians together can. If all 167 million American Christians on average gave $100 per month for food, we would have $200,400,000,000 per year to buy food. That’s 200 billion. We 167 million Christians spend $5,748,765,000,000 to feed ourselves. That’s 5 trillion. With another $200 billion, we could feed most of the world as well.

Don’t bog down in the numbers. Yes, the world’s food budget is high and should be higher. What we need to focus on is, what can I do to help? I am not responsible for everyone else. I know there are Christians who do not give their share. That’s not my concern. Not my burden. My burden is what I can do.

Find a good charity that helps people you can care about. Check online to see if the charity uses at least 75% of the money helping people. One simple approach is to identify a missionary working in the US or another country with people you would like to help and sending money to them. Be sure to check your denominational system for donations. Generally, the IRS wants to see the money pass through a central office. But you can send money directly to anyone, you just may not get to write it off on your 1040.

The reason I like sending money to missionaries is that they live with the people in need and can spend the money where it is most beneficial.

But enough about money. Be kind to people. Treat people with respect. Do your best not to hurt people’s feelings. Actually live the Golden Rule. I don’t like Trump because he is mean spirited, despite what he claims. He stirs up hatred, not love and respect.

1 Corinthians 13:12-13

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is loveMSG

When in doubt, error on the side of love, respect, forgiveness, and justice. There is no other way.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Christians in a Covid World

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

 

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Here you will find four versions of Romans 6:17-18.

 

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousnessESV
Thank God that you, who were at one time the servants of sin, honestly responded to the impact of Christ’s teaching when you came under its influence. Then, released from the service of sin, you entered the service of righteousness. Phillips
Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom! MSG
But thank God that while you used to be sin’s workers you later gave voluntary obedience to a type of teaching in which you got carried away. So, having been released from sin’s job, you have been employed by goodnessCotton Patch Version

 

Paul had no problem with being a slave, but he insisted on being a slave of God. As Saul set out from Jerusalem to track down the Jesus people in Damascus, he was sure he was doing the work of God. When Jesus met him on the way and blinded him, Saul began to realize that he was indeed blind to the true Word of God.

God does not want His followers to attack people. The OT is filled with the words, righteous, justice, help, and similar words. God is the God of love as was his Son.

To illustrate using events current as of this writing, let’s look at the SARS CoV 2 pandemic which causes a disease called Covid 19. Thousands of people are upset with the way things have been handled—stay at home orders and mandated mask wearing in particular.

The claims that Covid is a hoax are beyond comment. It is as real as Malaria and the common cold. Other claims do require Christians to pause and consider WWJD question.

SARS CoV 2 is a new virus and when it first appeared last December, we knew little about it. Once it was identified as a new SARS virus, research turned to trying to discover how it attacks humans. That research had to be done as people were being treated for the disease. In the last week of January, the first case was identified in the US. On April 24 there were 36,138 NEW confirmed cases, the largest single daily increase to this date. By June 1, the new daily cases had dropped to 16,073, with the trend going down. However, the trend in now going up. June 18 saw 27,082 new cases. Total US deaths have topped 120,000. That is way more than all the military deaths for the US since 1955.

What does this mean? It means that we are all in this together. One of the dangers of living in the USA is being infected with the freedom bug. We hear and see people claiming that their freedoms are being violated if they are required to wear a mask when they enter a public business. Yet, those same people expect the building to meet all safety standards and would quickly sue the business if they were injured in the building.

Living in society, Christian or not, involves agreeing to give up some individual freedoms in exchange for the common good. We are required to give some of our income to the government to build and maintain decent roads. We are also required to drive within a set of rules that are intended to provide the most safety for the most people. (Still, 38,800 people died on the roads in 2019.)

As Christians, we have a powerful mandate to make sure that every human in the world receives fair treatment in all encounters with us.

I wear an extra sturdy mask in public so that I can avoid being infected. If I should come down with Covid 19, I will isolate myself until I have tested clean and clear. There is no other position for Christians currently. ONCE IMMUNISATION arrives, we can relax. For now, don’t be stupid.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence