The trap of religion is that what appears to be beneficial, quickly becomes burdensome. In fact, the reality that religion is cumbersome is the very proof for it’s existence. What is religion? It is: lists of things to do, rituals to follow, rules to keep, and involves formulaic ways of doing things. As spiritual beings, we are drawn to religion. As sinful people we are drawn to religion instead of the person of Jesus. The insidious trap of religion continues to ensnare people today as it did so many years ago when Jesus walked the earth. Religion robs people – since it never stops demanding more from the participant. Its nature is to busy people with vain obedience to its commands in order to superimpose a pious spirituality.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus provides the alternative to religion: himself.
Here he gives a great invitation to tired and weary people; people like you and I. He says to the crowd he was preaching to,”Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” In today’s terminology, Jesus is saying,”stop your fruitless and worthless religion and instead, come to me.” After this, Jesus says, quite remarkably, ”Take my yoke on you and learn of me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In stark comparison to the religious teachers and leaders of his day, Jesus was someone who was gentle and humble of heart. His yoke, or teaching was one that provided rest for people. His rule was easy and light.
So, how do we learn of Jesus today? How do we become a gentle and humble leader? In order for this to happen, we must have a relationship to Jesus Christ. One cannot be a gentle and humble leader if he or she is not connected to Christ. As we live our life sourced out of abiding in Christ, then our life will provide rest for people who are weary of religion. One great example of a gentle and humble leader is Mother Teresa. She gave her life in devotion to God by caring for the least of the least on the streets of Calcutta. It is she who said,
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Mother Teresa worked among the poor yet sat and gave counsel to kings. By the time she was 69, she had received the Nobel Peace prize for her work and had met with with many world leaders. Her gentle and humble leadership came out of a close relationship with Christ.
Next, we must have a grace – orientation to life When we come face to face with the reality that we have been chosen by God, adopted into his family with no self-effort on which to boast, then and only then, do we navigate life extending grace to others. God’s grace manifested in our life sets us free and releases others. A grace -orientated life filled with gentleness and humility draws people to Christ and not man-made religion.
Our identity must come out of ‘being’ and not ‘doing’. In American culture, our value is dominated by ‘doing.’ Yet, God values us simply for who we are. He created us to enjoy him. We enjoy him by depending on Jesus through the Holy Spirit for life. This is the ‘yoke’ of Christ; relationship with him. Christ’s yoke is indeed an easy one. It simply involves coming to him. As we seek to be gentle and humble leaders we must learn of Christ and accept his rest. Once we have experienced this rest, we can lead others to find true rest in Christ alone.
Finally, gentle and humble leaders don’t keep spiritual scorecards. People find rest in Jesus. As Christians, we should be leading people to find true rest in Christ, not making sure that they satisfy our checklists or attend our spiritual programs. Gentle and humble leaders don’t keep spiritual scorecards. They don’t have long lists of ‘spiritual’ activities for people to check off. Love God and love thy neighbor sum up all the commands. Watch out for leaders who have long lists, or who have a heavy ‘yoke’. If we are to be like Jesus, then our own yoke must be easy and light, since we are teaching his teachings, and becoming like him.