Thursday, October 9, 2008

The cross-shaped yoke

The title of this post is a quote by Dallas Willard in the devotional I've been using lately.  Such an evocative phrase, don't you think?  I mean, most of us have struggled to understand what Jesus meant by, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," when He also said, "Anyone who wants to be my disciple must take up the cross daily and follow me." How do these two things complement each other?  Haven't you wondered this a time or two?  Sure, there's the idea that His yoke is easy--as yokes go. That is, by definition a yoke isn't easy.  It implies a weight.  But this idea of a cross-shaped yoke helps me out.

The thing is, we are meant not merely to be Christians, but disciples.  We are meant to become more than ourselves, more than simply people who have affirmed that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.  We are meant to be changed by Him, transformed into His likeness.  Jesus made disciples, not just believers.  That was what He was all about with the twelve, teaching them to obey, and teaching them to teach others how to obey.  It's the single goal of evangelism--not simply proclamation, but obedience. 

I fall short of this, both for myself, and in praying for others.  That is, it's easy (well, comparatively easy) to tell people that all they have to do is believe and they will be saved.  I've said these words before.  And yet, I know folks who live their whole lives, claiming to be Christian, without any evidence of discipleship to back up that claim.  I've wondered a time or two whether a certain person is, in fact, a Christian.  Haven't you?  I admit that sometimes I look at someone and think their life doesn't match what they say--when they're mean-spirited, self-involved, critical and uninterested in spiritual things--the things of the Kingdom. Then I back away from such thoughts, because I'm 'judging.' But Christ's aim is to make us 'little Christs'--Christ, 'who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body--so perhaps this is a question we need to ask.  Not only about others, but with the lens of Christ firmly on ourselves as well.  Are we becoming more like Him, more radiant with His glory, on our physicality, our behavior, or everything?

I turn to one of my dead heroes, CS Lewis.  In Mere Christianity (I just pulled out my copy, which I first read when I was a sophomore in high school.  It's peppered with pink and yellow highlight, and blue ink, with words in the margins like, "Far out!" and "great!" and "Yey, Lord!".  Pretty amusing from the vantage point of my advanced age now), CS Lewis says, "If conversion to Christianity make no improvement in a man's outward actions--if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before--then I think we must suspect that his conversion' was largely imaginative; and after one's original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance that is the test to apply.  Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in 'religion' mean nothing unless they make our actual behavior better...when we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world." (175-176)

The cross-shaped yoke, the burden of His death laid on our backs, makes a dent in the way we live,  carving a new life in right in the very backbone of our lives.  I don't want to be the same as I was before I knew Him; shoot, I don't want to be the same tonight as I was when I woke up this morning.  I want to move every day closer to the Perfection He desires--no, demands!--for me.  And yet, sitting here, I understand that I cannot do this by my will, my work, my desire.  Only He who demands it, can help me achieve it.  This too is the cross-shaped yoke: that I must die so that He can live in me.  Surrender to the death of myself so that from glory to glory, my life is Him.  So that everyday, I'm more Him than I am me.

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