The Great Thing about a Yoke
This past Sunday we talked about living free of sin, which at first glance feels like an oxymoron. Our world has so equated freedom with being free to do whatever you want to do that the idea of calling something a sin and placing it “out of bounds” doesn’t sound like freedom at all. And yet when you look closer and when you take the long view on life, it’s pretty clear that the results of a sinful lifestyle do not actually lead to more freedom.
Which begs the question, what DOES lead to freedom? As it turns out, living free isn’t found in freedom from standards or self-regulation. It actually comes from choosing where your standards come from. In scripture, Jesus refers to this as our yoke. A yoke was a tool used to harness a more experienced animal to a younger, less experienced one. This not only kept the younger animal on track, but ensured the burden never became too great. This is the freedom of a yoke.
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)
I stumbled upon these ideas in my sermon prep, so they are not original to me; but I do want to share three pictures of a yoke and then add a fourth of my own.
1. Connection: (Be with me). Yokes are made for two not one. They are all about connection. We were not meant to go through life alone, and we were not meant to live apart from God. Being connected to Jesus certainly limits what we can and cannot do, but it frees us from the pain associated with sin, and from the burden of ever being alone.
2. Direction: (Follow me). The idea of a yoke is a picture of two individuals moving forward together. When Jesus moves, we move with him. You cannot be yoked to Jesus and go your own way anymore without actually throwing off his yoke. Some do this, thinking they are finding freedom. The only problem is any direction in life that isn’t in line with Christ doesn’t lead to freedom. The only way to truly be free is to walk in step with Jesus.
3. Cooperation: (Work with me). To be yoked together means we are not only going in the same direction as Jesus, but we are joining him in his work- the work of salvation. Jesus does the saving, but a life with Jesus will be defined in part by the fruit of your kingdom work. When we choose to consume the truth about Jesus, but not join the work of Jesus, we are not yoked to Him.
4. Rest in me: (Walk with me). One of the greatest mistakes I see in the faith is people who are SAVED by grace, but then live like they have to EARN their faith through a life of works. Far from it. Yes, God has a work for you to do, a calling to carry out. But nothing you do is about earning your way. Being yoked to Christ is a constant reminder that you don’t have to carry the burden for your salvation- it’s already been taken care of. You don’t have to earn your way- He loves you anyway. Yes, there are standards and expectations, but they are the expectations of a life truly yoked to Christ. Nothing is heavier than trying to earn your way to heaven on your own strength while living a life unyoked from Christ.
So how about it? Want to truly be free? True freedom isn’t freedom from a yoke. It’s the freedom to choose yours.