Thursday, January 15, 2009
The weight of discipleship: Light and easy to be borne
As I study the different words for burden, two uses stand out to me specifically. One word for burden is “baros”. This word denotes a weight, or anything bearing on one physically. It makes a demand on physical or spiritual resources, of the individual that carries it. The other word for burden is “phortion.” This word denotes something that is willfully carried, which is considered to be lighter and more easily borne than the “baros” burdens. What is the difference between these two different types of burdens? I believe that the answer lies in the passage in Matthew 11, which says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [t]good--not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne” The difference between our burdens and God’s burdens lies in the partnership we have with Christ. It also has to do with the actual quality and type of burdens we take on to bear. What happens when we come to Christ? Why are we so weary and heavy laden and over-burdened? We have been trying to carry “baros” burdens. God says that He never meant for us to carry around our own burdens. They physically, emotionally, and spiritually wear us down. He has holy burdens for us. These burdens are our “portion” in Him. Vine’s Dictionary also says that the “phortion” burden involves that which is light, and is often coupled with the life of discipleship and following Christ. The burden of a transgressor and someone carrying his own sin is heavy and physically weighs one down. This is the “baros” burden. The burden of a disciple is Christ’s burden for him, and is thus light and easy to be borne. I want Christ’s burden. Vine’s goes on to say that only the “phortion” burdens will survive the fire that will test our works before the judgment seat of Christ. These burdens we can lay down at the feet of our God when we bow before Him in glory. So why do I try to carry my own burdens? Why do I labor and strive under the weight of self-imposed standards and rules? Were we ever created to bear the burdens that we try to bear? Probably not, if we are trying to do it apart from Christ. He says that the solution is simple: “Come to me.” It is not “work harder.” It is simply to come. When we come, what does He promise? He promises rest. What a blessed gift. For me, this is one of the most wonderful gifts imaginable. Rest does not simply imply lying down, or stopping. Rest often can be synonymous with peace, or shalom, or completeness. He gives us completeness and wholeness. I love how the amplified says that He will ease and relieve and refresh our souls. How can we couple the bearing of a burden with this ease, relief, and refreshment of our souls? We can pair these two states of existence together because they are united through the presence of God in our lives. We are yoked with Him. Being yoked with Christ creates a sense of balance to our lives. This balance comes because He is leading and shouldering the load, and He is in control. Am I overburdened with my own “baros” burdens, or am I joyfully carrying with Christ His “phortion” burdens? Is there striving and toiling in my life, or is there sweet rest and peace? This does not mean that I am to cease action. It just means that I need to walk in surrender to the will of God and in dependence on His Spirit. Only then will I mount up and soar on wings like eagles. With His “phortion,” I will run and not grow weary, and I will walk and not be faint.