November 30, 2018
Written by Emily Heath
"Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I'm gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light."
- Matthew 11:28-30
I love the Common English Bible's translation of this well-known text. Those of us who work for justice know what it's like to be "struggling hard and carrying heavy loads". The work is emotionally tough at times, and it is unending. It's no wonder that so many people who sincerely believe in the work eventually burn-out.
That's one reason why I believe it's essential for people of faith to ground their justice work in God's love and grace. Here Jesus calls those of us who need rest to himself. Jesus does not offer a rest from work. Jesus uses the language of the hard work of farming here, and talks about a "yoke" like you would use to plow. The yoke Jesus wants us to take on is one that will bind us both to him, and to his call for justice. If anything, it's an increased commitment to our work.
But here's the twist: Jesus offers us not an end to our work, but a new way of working. He offers a different perspective. He offers us a weight that is lighter and easier for us to bear because we do not carry it alone. Jesus isn't a harsh taskmaster who stands aside while we do the work. He's humble, and gentle, and he does the heavy lifting with us. And in that, we find rest.
If you've ever carried something heavy for a long time, you know it's easier if someone is holding on to the other end, and you know you go further if someone is letting you put it down from time to time. Jesus is offering us a job, but he's also offering us a hand. The more we lean on him in our work, the farther and the faster we will go.
Jesus, I'm ready to take on your yoke. Let's get to work, together.
About the Author
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter (New Hampshire) and the author most recently of Courageous Faith: How to Rise and Resist in a Time of Fear.