Spiritual Mentors


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 36; 147:12-20, Proverbs 21:30—22:6, 1 Timothy 4:1-16, Matthew 13:24-30

Have you ever had a mentor – a person who is purposeful about guiding your development? Mentors come in different flavors. Many businesses offer mentoring programs because it helps them promote and retain good talent, as well as foster a sense of the importance of passing along knowledge and experience. Social programs for youth, such as Big Sisters or Big Brothers, offer mentor programs to young people who lack positive adult role models. Some mentors, particularly those in artistic communities, may act in a less official capacity but still impart wisdom and raise the bar for young performers and artists through collaborative efforts.

Good mentors don’t try to create younger versions of themselves, or have preconceived notions of who you should be. They coach and guide you to explore the best path for you, provide honest feedback, and get you to hold yourself accountable for your progress. They do more listening than speaking.

Have you ever had a spiritual mentor? Paul filled this role for his young protege Timothy. He offered Timothy advice and encouragement. Perhaps more importantly he trusted him to act independently, and treated mistakes as opportunities for learning rather than reasons for punishment. Our record of their relationship is through Paul’s surviving letters, which of course reveal only one side of the conversation. If he was like other successful mentors, Paul wasn’t pontificating because he liked the sound of his own voice (or of his scratching pen); he was responding to Timothy’s questions and concerns. An effective mentoring relationship depends very much on what contributions the student brings to the relationship; it is not a monologue by the mentor but a conversation fueled by the student’s questions, enthusiasm, and curiosity.

Mentors themselves benefit from being mentored. There’s always someone we can learn from. It’s worth taking the time to invest in these relationships. Wherever we are on our spiritual journey, someone has already been through it. Their guiding hand can help us to navigate familiar territory, thereby freeing us to progress further and faster. The ultimate responsibility of mentors is to coach their students enough not to need them.

You could use a mentor. You could be a mentor. You could do both. A simple conversation gets the ball rolling.

Comfort: Seeking guidance is not a sign of weakness, but of maturity.

Challenge: When you are challenged in your faith or spiritual growth, don’t depend on only yourself to get through it.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the wisdom of the collected Body of Christ. Teach me to listen to it, teach me to add to it. Amen.

Discussion: A mentor is generally not a direct superior or a parent. What are the advantages of picking someone who isn’t “in charge” of you?

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Poverty of Ideas


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 15; 147:1-11, Proverbs 17:1-20, 1 Timothy 3:1-16, Matthew 12:43-50

Americans have a schizophrenic attitude toward people living in poverty. On one hand we canonize Mother Theresa for her work with the poor, and missionaries who feed starving Ethiopian children. On the other, we tend to think less charitably of the poor at home, and frequently require them to justify their poverty because we can’t stand the idea that someone somewhere is taking advantage of the “system.” Among Christians and nonbelievers alike, the poor are too often vilified rather than loved, torn apart rather than restored.

Do we honestly believe poor people “over there” are somehow different from or more deserving than people sleeping under bridges in Chicago? Poverty is a product of injustice and bad luck. America may have more resources and opportunity than many nations, but we can’t ignore the social, political, and economic structures that intentionally or unintentionally conspire against the poor. Jesus may have pointed that out once or twice.

We all know examples of people who’ve risen above – maybe we’ve done it ourselves – but lifting oneself out of poverty, especially generational poverty, usually requires exceptional talent. Hard work alone does not guarantee success. Your able body, sound mind, ethnicity, gender, and looks are all matters of chance helping or hindering  you. People who possess socially favorable variations of these traits have the opportunity to earn more, but do they inherently deserve more?

We treat intelligence and strength – and the success they engender – as virtues, but they are not something we choose; they are unearned gifts God has entrusted to us. Aren’t they meant to serve more than our bank accounts? Whether comfortable or afflicted, we should all do our fair share, but Christ taught if we have two coats and our neighbor has none, we should give them one. How often do we instead grill them about why they are too irresponsible to have a coat?

Who among us dares volunteer to tell Jesus we know who is deserving and undeserving, and the poor but unexceptional just don’t make the cut? Yet we do that with our votes and checkbooks every day.

The problem of poverty is complex, but the solution is never to dismiss poor people as weak or lazy. Both Old and New Testament scriptures have very clear positions on loving the poor. Why look for so many reasons not to?

Comfort: Whatever your financial or social status, in God’s eyes and heart you are equal to all His children.

Challenge: Examine what biases, hidden or overt, you might have against the poor. How do you think Christ would respond?

Prayer: God of love, open my heart to those in need. Amen.

Discussion: In what ways do you think America effectively works to alleviate poverty? In what ways is it ineffective?

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No Noise is Good Noise


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 123; 146, Proverbs 15:16-33, 1 Timothy 1:18—2:15, Matthew 12:33-42

The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.

The ear that heeds wholesome admonition will lodge among the wise.

Those who ignore instruction despise themselves, but those who heed admonition gain understanding.

– Proverbs 15:28, 31, 32

The Book of Proverbs is a collection of pithy sayings, instructions, and poems from several sources. Chapters 10 through 22 are attributed to Solomon, but he probably did not author them directly. Proverbs contains many themes, and one of the most prominent is wisdom.

A lot of this wisdom centers on the idea that, frankly speaking, we should know when to keep our mouths shut.

In our culture, most conversations pretend to be exchanges of ideas, but we generally lack tolerance for the silence necessary to thoughtfully reflect on what someone is saying to us. Instead we fill “awkward” silences by speaking whatever comes to mind first. Often we are mentally formulating our response before the other person finishes talking. And too often our default response mode is rebuttal rather than reflection. This is especially true when the discussion is about a disagreement, and we are more concerned with making our case – with winning the argument – than considering what the other person might have to add to our understanding. Spirited debate can be invigorating, even fun, but how often are we listening to respond, rather than listening to learn?

When we receive constructive criticism, we don’t have to immediately reply with a defense; we can take time to mull it over. When someone is experiencing grief or pain, we don’t have to offer cliched sentiments because we feel we have to say something comforting; we can simply be with that person. When someone is telling us about their problems we don’t have to offer unsolicited solutions; we can support them better with open ears and open arms. In these situations and many more, taking time to think will improve what we have to say, or show us we needn’t say anything.

Listening without feeling a need to respond every time will make us better friends, better parents, better co-workers, and better followers of Christ. Don’t be afraid of silence; that’s when we can hear God speak.

Comfort: Being slow to respond is often a sign of depth, not ignorance.

Challenge: For the remainder of the week, whenever possible, count to five before responding – or thinking about responding – to questions, news, etc. Note how these pauses affect the conversations.

Prayer: Loving God, teach me to listen for you in the silence. Amen.

Discussion: In what situations do you find it difficult to hold your tongue, even when you know better than to speak?

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No Time Like The Present

honor and glory

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, Proverbs 10:1-12, 1 Timothy 1:1-17, Matthew 12:22-32

Paul did not start out sympathetic to Christians. He was born to  Jewish parents with Roman citizenship, an unusual status. As a devout Jew he considered followers of Jesus a threat both to both the faith and to the relatively secure status of Jews under Roman occupation. For years he persecuted Christians, literally hunting them down and delivering men and women for imprisonment and execution. As he wrote to Timothy: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence.”

Yet he was the greatest evangelist in the history of the church.

Can you imagine the resistance Paul faced from other Christians as he began his ministry? He was the embodied scourge of Rome across the backs of those who followed Christ. Why would anyone believe him when he said he was reformed? When people claim to change their minds or begin to behave differently, we suspect insincerity and our suspicions are often confirmed. But Paul persevered despite his critics, who included such important Christian figures as Peter. The zeal which had once driven him as “a man of violence” had been redirected.

If God could reform a villain like Paul, the rest of us should have great hope indeed.

When we try to change for the better, people will inevitably bring up our pasts and question our credibility. We may be embarrassed when that happens, but like Paul we can use that opportunity to testify to God’s grace. Whether we’ve decided to improve in a small way, like declining to indulge in office gossip, or in a more significant way, like seeking reconciliation with an estranged family member, our past does not need to be a source of shame.

Rather, by humbly acknowledging our past sins – not excusing them  or getting “holier than thou” – we can speak a powerful truth about how God’s grace has transformed our present. Paul was humble, but not ashamed. Persistent, but not defensive. His faith eventually became undeniably obvious to all. Whatever your sin or past, God can do the same for you.

Comfort: God wants to free you from the prison of your past.

Challenge: Forgiving your own past is an important step in forgiving others.

Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for your gift of grace. May my life be a testimony to the power of your saving love. Amen.

Discussion: What parts of your own past have you not been able to forgive? Do you think you need to forgive yourself before you can believe God forgives you?

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Just Because


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 103; 150, Job 38:1-11; 42:1-6, Revelation 19:4-16, John 1:29-34

Some questions have no answers, or at least none we can understand. Job was a righteous man who’d been greatly blessed by God; he had a large family, lands and livestock, and good health. When Satan (not the devil we think of, but a member of God’s court known as The Accuser) claimed Job would lose faith if God revoked his favor, God took the bet. He killed Job’s family and livestock, struck him down with terrible disease, and left him a ruined man sitting on a dung heap.

Job’s friends tried to explain why these terrible things happened to him. Saying he must have sinned, they blamed Job for his own ills, but he knew he was innocent. Like well-meaning people at a funeral who tell bereaved family members “it’s part of God’s plan,” Job’s well-meaning friends didn’t manage to offer one comforting word. We all desperately want things to make sense, but sometimes they just don’t.

When Job finally gets to confront God, God’s response is pretty unsatisfying: “Where were you when I created the earth, the seas, and the heavens?” In other words: “know your place.” God doesn’t even feel obligated to disclose the wager. Sure God gives Job a new family and restores his fortunes, but can that ever make up for what was lost?

Is there any comfort to be found in this story? If we can let go of our need to explain everything, there is the comfort of a certain harsh wisdom. Sometimes disaster will rain down on you for no apparent reason. It won’t be your fault, and honestly there may not be a silver lining. Trying to assign it a purpose may leave you looking and feeling as ignorant as Job’s friends.

We. Don’t. Always. Get. To. Know.

However, we can know that in the midst of our worst times, and God is with us and rooting for us not to lose faith. If there’s a lesson to be learned, learn it. But don’t let your need to find one be more important than your need to trust God anyway.

Comfort: When bad things happen to you, sometimes it is the unknowable nature of the world, not a reason to believe you are being punished.

Challenge: When you can’t find meaning in tragedy, you may be called to make meaning from it.

Prayer: God, I will trust you always. Amen.

Discussion: What in your life doesn’t seem fair? If you stop insisting that it make sense, does that make it easier or more difficult to accept?

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Invitation: Cross Words


For me, one of the greatest delights in life is wordplay. I’ve heard puns described as the lowest form of humor, but a good pun – whether it’s good because it’s clever or because it’s painfully corny – always brings a smile to my face. My older nephew and I will spend and entire weekend of camping trying to out-pun one another. On my Facebook timeline I created a recurring hashtag for #typosthatshouldbewords. (Regreat? Something you’re sorry you did, but you did really well!) Every day I attempt the New York Times crossword puzzle then read the blog about its construction.

My love of crossword puzzles is handed down. On Sundays I would sit at my grandparents’ big kitchen table and do crossword puzzles with my Grandfather. Joint puzzle solving is a character-building experience. When I was young he was patient with me, letting me figure out (or leading me to) some of the answers he of course already knew. I learned relationships are built on give-and-take, and that you may have to wait a little for someone to understand what seems obvious to you.

Last Sunday was Pentecost, and the weekly scriptures included the story of the Holy Spirit, in the form of tongues of flame, descending on the disciples. Afterward, though they spoke many languages, they heard one another in their native tongues. That got me thinking about how we can use so many different words to mean the same thing.

And in turn, that got me thinking about how the same word can mean many different things.

“Love” is a good example. But I’m not talking about that that romantic versus Christian or agape sense of different kinds of love we hear about in sermons.

Several years ago some relationships at church led us to briefly becoming guardians to a teenager who was working some things out with his family. He and I grew close over several mission trips and years of tutoring, movies, cheap pizza, and long talks. We remained in weekly contact for many years. He’s now a father himself and though I see him less frequently, my affection has not waned.

One of things I learned was that “love” meant something different to him than to me. In my family the words “I love you” come easily (but not cheaply or thoughtlessly). Therefore, it felt natural for me to say “love you, buddy” when we parted or ended a phone conversation. He didn’t reciprocate, and I didn’t force the issue. Some people feel left hanging when they say “I love you” and the person doesn’t return it, but over time I’ve come to believe you shouldn’t say “I love you” if what you really mean is “I want to hear that you love me.”

Now he would say it when he was asking me for something inconvenient: “Can you take me to Game Stop [some 15 miles away]? I love you!” It was half jest, half unsuccessful emotional bribe. He’d also say it to girls he dated – in my opinion far too soon and far too often. I think those were more like hopeful little prayers though: “I want to hear that you love me.”

One day as I was dropping him off at his mother’s place, I gave him a hug and said “Love you, buddy.” I was surprised to hear “Love you, too” but I decided not to make it weird. In the moment, at least. The next time we saw each other I mentioned I had appreciated it. He told me he didn’t say it much because his father would make him say it back when he didn’t feel like it or mean it.

We had learned to solve life’s puzzles very differently. What an invaluable lesson in the power of how the intention and reception of our words can be so distant from one another.

Love-the-word had very different meanings for us, but we both understood love-the-feeling. When he trusted me to pull splinters out of his hand, or rode to summer school in my passenger seat in silent protest but never once defied me about actually going, or burped across the table at me in anticipation of how I would rate in on a ten-point scale, we both understood.

When we tell people Christ loves them, our intention may be distant from how they are able to receive it. Sometimes that distance may feel irreconcilable. Maybe they’ve been mistreated by the church and we represent pain. Maybe they’ve had struggles we can’t imagine and a loving God seems like an impossibility. The list of maybes is endless. Regardless of the reason, if they don’t respond in a manner we find acceptable, our reaction to that response tells us whether we are truly seeking to share the gospel … or seeking validation.

The Gospel is not delivered via scare tactic or data dump: it is delivered via relationship, sometimes in many installments over a long period of time. People need to – and should – get to know us before they trust or believe us. We shouldn’t be offended by that. Sure, you and I know we are coming from a place of love and honesty and feel defensive when someone questions that … but do you believe everything told to you by a stranger or acquaintance? “Actions speak louder than words” has become a tried old cliché for a reason.

Crossword clues can be intentionally misleading. That can be fun for the experienced puzzler, but frustrating for those who aren’t used to the conventions. If we want someone to understand love from the clues we’re dropping, it is more important that they be clear than clever.

If you invite someone’s into Christ’s love and they decline … invite them again a different way. Don’t guilt them. Don’t strong-arm them. Don’t dismiss them. Love them.

Take out their splinters.
Endure their moods.
Laugh with them about the things they think are funny.
Play with the words until they make sense.

As my grandfather grew even older and his thoughts slower, the puzzles became much easier for me than for him. It was my turn to sit at the table and  demonstrate patience, and it was easy because I’d had such a good example, who had shown me solving a puzzle together – whether it be about life, love, or the Hawaiian state bird – is about far more than the solution.

Wait for them, and let them wait for you.
Sit patiently at the table.

In the end, it’s not our words that persuade people of Christ’s love. It’s the limitless grace of God, the enduring nature of Christ’s table.

Not our words, but The Word.

You and I simply choose whether or not to love them enough to speak it in a language they can understand. “I want you to hear that Christ loves you. Let’s gather at this table and start that conversation.”

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Make Time for Miracles



Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, Proverbs 8:22-36, 3 John 1-15, Matthew 12:15-21

So often our faith is tangled in doctrine, politics, and other distractions. We rely on it in (or find it lacking) in times of difficulty or sadness. The church emphasizes sin, sacrifice, and the cross. When we focus on the glory of resurrection, it is inevitably linked to the suffering that led up to it. These are all realities in our life, but they are not the only realities.

God called the creation good. We are loved enough to be saved. There is beauty all around us but most of our busy lives permit so little time to appreciate it and draw spiritual sustenance from it. Scriptures like Psalm 104 are important because they remind us the story of creation is not all about battling the forces of evil and repenting of our own wickedness; it is also about the marvels God has showered on this world.

When we have the opportunity, we need to take time to simply appreciate the wonders around us. When we are tired or hurting, it strengthens us to understand there is something glorious happening. The seasons themselves are cyclical miracles of rebirth, growth, maturation, and rest. Winter snows melting into spring rivers; summer harvest yielding to autumn abundance; no matter what time of year, we are in the middle of a miracle.

In addition to the seasons, the psalmist writes about the diversity of life, from birds to fish to cattle to trees to flowers. He writes about valleys with rushing rivers, majestic mountains, and lush fields. Day and night and everything they each reveal has a purpose. Between the tiniest creature creeping on the ground and the moon illuminating us from high above, the world is full of beauty that exists because God is good.

This goodness is not always foremost in our minds. When we experience disease, poverty, oppression, or any of a host of ills, it may seem far away, even impossible. Yet it exists alongside us at all times. Finding time to find the good may not solve our problems, but ignoring the good makes God seem all the more distant.

Comfort: You have permission to take time out from everything else to find beauty in the world.

Challenge: Each day this week, write down three beautiful things you have observed.

Prayer: God of Creation, thank you for the wonders all around me. Amen.

Discussion: In places of war or extreme poverty, beauty may seem absent entirely. Can it be found there?

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Civil Disobedience


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 51; 148, Proverbs 8:1-21, 2 John 1-13, Matthew 12:1-14

The Gospels contain several examples of Christ breaking the Law to serve a greater good. In today’s reading from Matthew he hits the Pharisees with a double whammy. First, he and his hungry disciples pick heads of grain to eat while they are walking through a field, though the Law forbid harvesting on the Sabbath. Then Jesus heals a man with a withered hand (also work forbidden on the Sabbath) and justifies it by asking his critics if, had they only one sheep and it fell into a ditch on the Sabbath, would they lift it out?

As followers of Christ we understand God “desires mercy and not sacrifice” yet many civil and religious laws attempt to bind us to legalism over mercy. When are we called to civil disobedience – that is, disobeying the law out of Christian conscience? Without respect to their merit, some examples include conscientious objectors during wartime, refusal to sign marriage certificates for gay couples, and passing out food to homeless people despite local ordinances forbidding it. Further complicating the matter, Paul tells us in many scriptures to obey the civil authorities because they have been appointed by God.

What can we learn from Jesus’s examples of lawbreaking? Jesus breaks the law to show mercy to others – the sick, the hungry, and the outcast. He doesn’t do it to benefit himself, or to make a show of his piety. To the contrary, his actions compelled religious leaders to seek his destruction. Even when he cleansed the temple by driving out the money changers and livestock dealers, he was confronting a system that was technically legal but exploiting the disadvantaged. That’s the flip side of the coin: pretending our adherence to the law excuses our unmerciful behaviors.

We can’t opt out of society’s laws altogether – that’s simply anarchy – but when the law compels us to do something contrary to God’s desire for mercy, we must stand for God. Like Jesus we must be willing to suffer the consequences of obeying that higher law. And we must do it with the humility of a king whose only crown was thorns.

Comfort: You don’t have to fight every little aspect of society that doesn’t dovetail with your faith…

Challenge: …but you should be willing to stand up in the face of injustice.

Prayer: God of wisdom, teach me when to humbly respect authority, and when to humbly confront it. Amen.

Discussion: Have you broken the law – or the rules – to show mercy?

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Overcoming the Limits of Empathy


Bumper Sticker Wisdom

A few days ago while sitting in traffic I saw a bumper sticker that gave me pause. It read: “There’s only one race: the human race.” On most days I probably would have read it and nodded in agreement with its message of solidarity, but my audiobook had just ended and I was alone with my thoughts.

The basic sentiment was true enough, but does its oversimplification contribute anything substantial to our social discourse? More than once when I’ve engaged in conversations about racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism or other systemic ills, some well-meaning soul or other has offered up a comment like: “We’ve all been picked on or bullied for our looks, or intelligence, or weight, or something. We need to acknowledge everyone’s pain and love each other for who we are.” And again, on the surface that is true enough, but it’s a conversation-stopper. Specific forms of discrimination have specific causes, specific effects, and specific solutions. Not every unkind word or instance of bullying has its roots in systematic oppression; sometimes people, individually and in groups, are just mean. An inability or unwillingness to see the difference is not enlightenment, it’s self-indulgence.

Woke or dreaming?

Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t see race?” It’s almost always intended to be supportive of racial equality (though most of the time I cynically suspect it’s begging the rest of us to notice how woke the speaker is), but in practice it erases the experiences of people of other races. You or I may claim not to see someone’s race, but that person doesn’t have the convenience of forgetting about it; they have to live with the 24/7 reality of all the people who do see their race and treat them differently because of it. Truly seeing someone means acknowledging hardships they experience but we don’t, not pretending we’ve all had the same hardships and opportunities simply dressed up in different clothes.

Another example of erasing someone’s experience is woven throughout some men’s reaction to the #metoo movement. Right away we saw responses like “not all men” or “men are sexually assaulted too.” Both true, and neither is helpful to the situation being addressed. The first dismisses women’s experiences in favor of comforting men who can’t separate their defensiveness from the actual problem, and the second derails the conversation away from behavior that has become largely normalized and tolerated by equating it with behavior that for the most part is already unacceptable.

The Worst Offense is a Bad Defense

In a culture where we are encouraged to empathize with others, we need to recognize the boundary between empathizing with someone’s story … and trying to make it our own story. When someone tells us their story, we don’t need to figure out how to relate to it, we need to listen. By all means develop a strong practice of empathy – but also recognize its limits.

As uncomfortable as we might be with discrimination, when someone tells us it has happened to them, let’s suppress any initial instinct to discredit that claim (“oh that happens to white people too” or “maybe you’re being overly sensitive”). Of course we can and should think critically about the situation and information, but here’s an example where empathy applies: how do you feel when someone tries to tell you your interpretation of your lived experience is wrong? So how should people feel when you do it to them? Other people understand their own experiences as well as you and I understand ours, so let’s stop trying to tell them (and ourselves) otherwise.

We don’t necessarily launch these reactions from a negative place. Perhaps our intention is to be impartial. Or maybe our intention is to learn. Or to be an ally. Or something else that seems positive to us. The hard truth is, in interpersonal relationships, especially those entangled in the realities of discrimination, intentions might not matter. We feel like they should, but if the practical result of our reaction is that someone feels further alienated and tells us so, does it cause us any harm to consider how we might be wrong? If a conversation that starts with someone’s experience of discrimination ends in a discussion of our hurt feelings about their reaction – that is, if we need comfort because someone else has spoken about being oppressed – the empathy train has gone off the rails. And we have to own that.

The Bigger Story

Not every story has to be about or even relatable to our own story to merit compassion.

I’ve learned this the hard way, because I’ve been guilty of some flavor of pretty much everything I’ve mentioned. The one thing I’m wise enough to know is that no matter how “woke” I think I am now, there’s always more to learn, and that’s done by listening, not by explaining and defending.

As Christians, we are obligated to listen and to be compassionate because every human being is part of Christ’s story. Isn’t that what it means to see the face of Christ in everyone we meet? And isn’t that idea so much bigger and better than our own tiny story?

Let’s find commonality where we can. And where we can’t find commonality, let’s find Christ.

Yoke and Unburden


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 147:12-20, Proverbs 7:1-27, 1 John 5:13-21, Matthew 11:25-30

A yoke, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.” When Jesus began his ministry, the people of Israel were still yoked to the Mosaic law and its heavy-handed application. Not only was this law burdensome on its own, the leaders had come to use it as a tool for oppressing the poor and the downtrodden.

When Jesus told his disciples, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” he was inviting them to hitch themselves instead to the divine love of God he brought to earth. Instead of being tethered to an unyielding law that dragged them along mercilessly to the inevitable grave, they could be partnered with forgiveness and mercy.

Note that Jesus did not offer to unyoke them entirely. Ultimately we are all yoked to something, and that something helps determine the direction we travel and how heavy our burden. What are you yoked to? Maybe it’s a career that drags you along at breakneck pace. Or maybe it’s an addiction that grows heavier and heavier with each step. It could be something as beautiful as a family, but even that can take us where we’d rather not be, and the burden can be heavy. If we are yoked to self-interest, the burden may seem light but pivoting on only one point leads us to travel a tight and pointless circle.

Whatever you’re yoked to, do you like the direction it pulls you? Does the burden it places on you wear you down or build you up? When we yoke ourselves to Christ, he will steer us toward faith, but never force us. A gentle tug of conscience is all that’s needed to pull us back on the path.

No matter what ties us down, Christ offers something better. We can still have a career and a family and many other pleasant and meaningful things in our lives, but Christ will guide us through them, rather than let them steer us. We’re all tilling the same field; how we’re yoked determines whether it is killing or sustaining us.

Comfort: Following Jesus does not limit us, but frees us.

Challenge:  Meditate on what you are yoked to. As yourself whether it’s the right thing.

Prayer: God of hope, I will follow where you lead me. Amen.

Discussion: What are you yoked to? Is it something you should free yourself from?

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