Archive for August 20th, 2009

The Challenges of Discipleship: The Sweet Yoke of Love

“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 light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

My Fellow Pilgrims,

Sweet Yoke of Love

Sweet Yoke of Love

From a worldly point of view, offering someone to live his/her life yoked to another person is not exactly a very appealing offer even to the farmers of Jesus’ day. Of course they knew that new oxen were trained by yoking them to an ox that already “knew the ropes” so to speak. But the analogy was still rather a shocking way of attracting disciples.  Even today we are still taken aback by the metaphor even though we understand that it refers to the relationship that is required if one wishes to enter into a life of discipleship with Jesus.

However, if we try to understand what true discipleship entails it turns out to be a very enticing offer.

All Christians are called to discipleship, and many of us (like myself) are merely wannabe disciples. The main reason for this is that true discipleship involves a total giving of ourselves in Love – a total giving that asks us to be conformed to Christ and not to the world in which we live. Thus, although we may have a deep desire to be in a discipleship relationship with Jesus, our worldly attachments are formidable barriers to achieve this in our lives.

As an example let us look at the story of the rich young man who also was a wannabe disciple.:

And behold, one came to Him and said,  “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him,  “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him,  “Which ones?” And Jesus said,  “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him,  “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him,  “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.

(Matt 19:16-22)

The first thing one notices about this exchange is that Jesus only asks the young man about the commandments dealing with our relationship with others but NOT His relationship with God. Jesus does this intentionally because He knows that this young man is sincere in attempting to keep the Law with regard to his relationship with others but He also knows that if He asks Him about his relationship with God He will attempt to justify himself because, inadvertently perhaps, He is not keeping the Law with regards to God and doesn’t want to admit this to himself. This is brought out when He asks him to sell all that He has and to come and follow Him. The young man went away saddened because the challenge that was placed before him by Jesus revealed that his possessions were really his ”god” and that these were controlling his life rather than the Only God, the God of Israel.

If we analyze our consciences carefully we will find that there are many attachments in our lives that similarly control us and keep us from giving ourselves totally to God, which is what true discipleship requires. Things like our business, our occupation, our family, our politics, and our hobbies can take over our lives to the degree that they control us. None of these are necessarily bad in themselves but because we give ourselves over to these things instead of seeking FIRST the Kingdom of God they become impediments to our spiritual growth and we place ourselves in bondage to the things of this world. With appropriate spiritual guidance, however, we can overcome the bondage these things impose on our lives and come into true discipleship.  Yes, through Jesus we can overcome the world even as we live in the world to proclaim the Good News of Salvation.

That is where the Yoke comes in!

If we yoke ourselves to Jesus and live our lives in a walk that is closely linked to Him He will guide us and deliver us from the bondages the world has placed on us. In being yoked to Him, He will transform our thinking about how to live in the world without being conformed to the world. Instead, we will find our freedom and find ourselves being conformed into His Image day-by-day.

So if you are a wannabe disciple (like I am) being yoked to Jesus is a very enticing offer!

The Lessons of the Yoke: The Obedience of Love

Now, It must also be said that in being yoked to Jesus you begin to learn some spiritual principles that are clearly opposed to the world’s way of thinking. Some of these are: Faith brings you to Love and love brings you to obedience and obedience brings you to freedom!

As strange as it seems (from a worldly point of view), Freedom, Faith, Obedience and Love are all interdependent and connected to one another. You cannot have true Love unless you are free and believe in the One to whom you are giving yourself to. And you cannot claim to express that Love through your life if you live a life that is not in accord with that which the One who Loves you desires for you. This is the Obedience of Love.

True Love, the Unconditional Agape Love, that God gives us and the Love that the Father desires of us, requires a freely given act of the will.

It cannot be forced, enticed or coerced.  It must be given freely because true and pure Agape Love is the unconditional giving of ourselves to God.

You cannot therefore truly Love God unless you are free to express that love in the total giving of yourself to Him.

This kind of giving goes against our human nature and so the only way that we can decide to give ourselves to God is through Faith – Faith in Him, faith in His Word, and faith in His Love.

Like wise, you cannot truly give yourself to God unless that love is in consonance with His will and you hold back nothing that is in you from Him.

Because it is in obeying the One you Love (God) that you fully express the gift of yourself through your obedient actions and response to His Love.

That is why Jesus tells His disciples that …

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14 23))

Now, that is a very high bar which none of us has the ability, in our human nature, to achieve.  Thankfully, in His Mercy and Love, the Father also provides the means to achieve the level of Love He desires of us. He does this by first of all giving us the faith we need to believe in His Divine Son, Jesus, and then by pouring His Divine Agape Love into us through His Spirit, the Spirit of Love (Rom. 5:5).

So now, I hope I have made It clear, that in yoking oneself to Jesus you are yoking yourself to God’s Love. And since Divine Love never fails you also, will never fail to come to the place in discipleship where the Father wants you and where you will accomplish His purposes by the power of His Spirit and for the Glory of His Name!

May it always be so forever, Amen and Amen!


Related Links:

The Narrow Gate

Walking The Walk

The Challenges of Discipleship


PS:  I add the following scriptures for you wannabe disciples that  are considering being yoked to Jesus.  These scriptures clearly lay out for you the Commitment of Love, that is, the Yoke of Love.

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “(John 15:9-11 NRSV)

“Beloved let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-12, NRSV)

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4: 13-16, NRSV)

“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of  judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The  commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also”. (1 John 4:16-21, NRSV)

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2009].

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