There’s a disconnect between Jesus telling us His “yoke is easy, and His burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30) and the reality that many Christians live each day. For those who live in countries where they are not free to be Christ-followers, how is their burden light? For those who are denied provisions and healthcare because of their profession of Jesus, how is it that His yoke is easy?
Many in the West may have a bit of trouble relating to this. For them, life is easy. They are pursuing some variant of the American dream while claiming to follow Jesus. It would seem they have it all. I submit that those who think this way are looking at life through an American-centric lens and may not be yoked to Christ at all.
First, let’s get a proper framing of Christ’s metaphor. The yoke Jesus refers to is a device linking two oxen together, which exponentially increases their pulling power. When the animals work together, what might be heavy for one to pull becomes easy when they work together. So, when Jesus says His yoke is easy, He is referring to us being joined with Him in life. When we are walking beside Jesus and doing the work He has given us to do, it is indeed easy. It is only when we start pulling in a different direction that life becomes more difficult.
In the Western world, with its myriad opportunities and distractions, it is easy to want to reach for the pleasures and comforts of life. We take our eyes off the road ahead of us and begin drifting to the side. Some disengage from the yoke altogether and go their own way. Enduring the yoke becomes too difficult for them. Where then is the easy yoke and light burden?
Jesus’s yoke is easy when we focus on His mission and are matching him step for step. He didn’t sacrifice Himself so He could help each of us carry out our personal missions. No, He sacrificed Himself to redeem us and to encourage us to carry out His mission with Him. When we are walking in step with Jesus, united in purpose, His yoke becomes easy. It doesn’t mean life becomes easy. This world will always oppose the ways of Christ. But your way in the world will be easy because you are steadfast in your purpose and devotion. You will no longer struggle to determine your place in this world; you will know it is to walk and work beside Jesus.
What we in the West have missed is that we must center our entire life around Christ. We don’t compartmentalize some areas where we follow Him and others where He becomes a sideline player. If we are truly yoked together with Jesus, it is impossible to put Him on the sidelines. We have pledged our entire lives to be joined with Him! If you aren’t walking in step with Jesus, you may not be yoked to Him at all. When you chose Jesus, you choose Him with your entire life. Disciples of Jesus devote their whole life to Him, not selected parts. When we commit fully to Jesus, His yoke will be easy and His burden so light as to be unnoticeable. We will live life as He designed for us to live it.