“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)
Another long one.
Last week our company had a call where the market president addressed some of the concerns that have been flooding the news and social media of late. Several high-level executives were in attendance and shared their feelings and outrage over the killing of George Floyd and their sympathy/support for the resulting protests.
Our company has made a substantial financial commitment to support organizations to fight racial inequality, injustice, and create more opportunities. Managers also committed to having more open dialogues with employees, providing any emotional health care or counseling as needed, and working with political and local leaders to try and heal the wounds, some of which go very deep for associates in our communities. One manager shared a recent, appalling incident of racist vandalism he had to endure at his own home, in front of his children and parents.
All of the speakers shared from their hearts but they expressed words that you would expect a high-level executive of a Fortune 100 company to say to their employees — We are outraged. We stand with you. We will support you, and we will support our communities and the customers that we serve. We stand united against racism and bigotry.
I genuinely believe some, if not all of the speakers in our meeting, were truly heartbroken and desired to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. And I applaud them for that.
One comment that was made that struck my attention, in particular, came from the market president. He said that many employees had reached out to him and shared a common theme —
They. Felt. Tired.
Tired of the coronavirus.
Tired of working from home.
Tired of not being able to see their friends, family, and co-workers.
Tired from the tragic murder of George Floyd and countless others like him.
Tired from the protesting and rioting.
And perhaps, if I could add . . .
Tired of not being able to trust the news or social media or the latest scientists’ reports or the White House press – having to second guess everything we hear or read.
Tired of the finger-pointing and name-calling and the ever-growing chasm that seems to divide us as a nation.
Tired of having to qualify every tweet or post or thought they have so that no one would think they are racist or unsympathetic to the plights of our neighbors. …
There’s an unmistakable feeling in the air that people everywhere are exhausted. From my group of friends, it’s particularly true for those who are generally the Peacemakers.
If I were to guess, part of this exhaustion comes from having no hope (or at least the fact that it’s become increasingly difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel). It’s very hard to get up each morning when you don’t have hope, when the world around you is a dark place.
And it’s frustrating.
And you are afraid.
And you feel like everything that was once good is now bad.
In my opinion, we Christians have lost sight of what’s most important in this time of trial.
For those without faith, you are coming to the realization that there is no peace in this world (on its own) because the peace that we are truly seeking is not between warring countries. It’s not between political parties. It’s not between one race over another. It’s not between the rich and the poor. It’s not between those that have good health and those that are sick.
All of these false dichotomies jockey for our attention, for our time, for our emotions, for our energy. But these troubles will continue to get worse before they get better because we are chasing after the symptoms of a deeper issue of the heart.
The peace that we are ultimately seeking is to be Restored and cleansed from guilt. The guilt that we carry is, in part, between one another, but ultimately it is rooted in our sin — our sinful, selfish natures – which separates us from a Holy and Righteous God.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to belittle the struggles that we have with one another. There are legitimate grievances and systemic issues that need to be addressed. There are voices that need to be heard. There are criminals who need to be brought to justice.
I, most of all, am guilty of getting caught up in these matters.
Eventually, this deeper guilt over our sin haunts us because we realize it won’t go away with time or distance. We avoid making eye contact with it, try to hide it, bury it, ignore it, anesthetize ourselves from it. But our guilt still drives us.
The question is how do we get clean from it? How do we obtain redemption? Without restoration, without forgiveness, without reconciliation, we walk around on this globe aimlessly, seeking to do ‘good’, to try and make up for the ‘bad’ that we’ve done.
We try to take solace, hoping that if we’re good enough, it makes up for the horrible things that each and every one of us had said or done or laughed at or mocked or criticized or hurt in our life. “Sure”, we tell ourselves. “I have my flaws, but I’ve never murdered anyone.”
But if we are honest, there’s very little real comfort in the fact that we’re not cold-blooded mass murderers or that we rank favorably when put up against the worst people in all of human history.
Surely the bar isn’t set that low.
We will never know if we’ve been good “enough”. And therein lies the problem of never being able to find peace on our own.
Because of this uncertainty, our lives become a never-ending source of guilt and pain and remorse and regret. There are some that will prey on that guilt or even feed it and constantly make us feel like we are worthless. Sadly, sometimes this message comes from the church.
Still others will try to take our guilt and channel it into anger. They’ll try to convince us that we really aren’t the ones to blame for our sins, that we ourselves are victims and that the real source of our anger is this group or those people or that country or these corporations.
They’ll try to convince us that by focusing on our anger, we will overcome our guilt.
It’s easy to harness anger and to rally the masses around its theme because it does not require introspection. We simply deflect our guilt and point to someone else and say they are worse than us. Their guilt is worse than ours, and thus, we’re justified in our anger. And yet if you observe these people closely, it’s as clear as day that their guilt consumes them. Their rhetoric never points to themselves. It’s always pointing outward.
CONTRAST these leading voices today to the words of Jesus Christ from the verses in Matthew 11:28-30 shared above. Jesus doesn’t promise us a life of luxury. He promised to put a yoke on your neck. But He also promised that it would be used so that He could teach us, bear our burdens right alongside us, and be gentle with us. And He promised to give us rest.
At the time, the people (Jews and Gentiles alike) were under a heavy burden of political and religious rule from Rome and the Pharisees – the religious leaders of the time.
I imagine many of Christ’s followers were desperately looking for hope. Some expected Him to take up arms as a glorious general and overthrow the Roman and religious authorities, to take His rightful place on the throne by force. I imagine some just wanted Him to feed them as He did the 5,000. And still others — the tax collectors, the harlots, the sick and the lame, the outcasts of society — He loved and pitied them the most. Through it all, He never changed or watered down His message — Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.
The religious leaders at the time loved to bury their people with overly complicated rules, restrictions, and a burdensome legal system. But Jesus made it all very simple.
6But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”Matthew 22:34-40 (NKJV)
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Interestingly, many non-Christians love to completely skip the first AND GREATEST commandment from verse 37. They go right to verse 39 and, in their own backward thinking, believe that loving your neighbor means ‘anything goes’. This is as far from the truth of the Gospel as you can get.
If we, as Christians, truly love God with all our heart, soul and minds – it would be obvious that our love for our neighbors would manifest itself into wanting to help and encourage them to do the same.
But what is true from these verses is that BOTH are commandments. We are commanded to Love God and to Love Our Neighbors. You cannot claim to love God and hate a group of people. And you cannot truly love your neighbors and ignore the God who creates us both.
When you come to know Jesus Christ, you learn that He was the perfect, spotless, sacrificial Lamb of God. He had no sin in Him. And yet, He loved you and me enough to take our place, to bear the burden of the punishment for our sins, at the cross.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 (NKJV)
If you still reading this, and if you don’t know the peace that comes from Christ — from accepting the free gift of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration that comes by believing on Him — I encourage you to start reading your Bibles. If you don’t know where to begin, I recommend the Gospel of John.
If you do know Christ, brethren, may I encourage you (and me) to remember that these trials and tribulations are a chance for us to show our Love for God and our Love for our Neighbors? We should not lose hope so easily. We should wait on the Lord and renew our strength.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)
and remember to press on toward the goal, to finish well, and keep our eyes on our true citizenship —
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:12-21 (NKJV)
15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
And lastly –
12 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27 (NKJV)