Miserable and Hard?

Some people say, and some people think, “It’s hard to be a Christian.”

But I don’t think they are corrrect.

Instead, I think the Christian life is not hard at all; it is remarkably easy. Unless we decide to make it hard. Which a lot of people do.

Jesus said, “my yoke is easy, my burden is light.” The gospel is “good news.” Jesus talks about loving God and loving people. And so it all comes down to that, and really, that is not complicated, it is not hard to figure out. It is simplicity itself: and it doesn’t mean warm fuzzies. “Love your neighbor as yourself” How? “if your enemy’s animal has fallen into a pit, help him get it out.” And “If you are compelled to go a mile, go two.” And “Turn the other cheek.” Love is not a warm fuzzy; it is sometimes, perhaps mostly, a cold choice: you want what is best for the other. You do to others as you’d have them do to you.

The Christian life has been described as difficult. Repeatedly from pulpits around the world, Christians are told, “It’s tough to be a Christian.” They are endlessly taught that there is a cross to bear, that discipleship is costly, that lives must be given up for the sake of the gospel.

But such an attitude creates an odd paradox with Jesus’ words that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (see Matthew 11:28-30). Yet elsewhere (Matthew 16:24-25) his words tell us that we must take up our cross and follow him. But then, although we are told that we must give up our lives, we’re also told that whoever loses his life will find it. And finally, the Greek word that gets translated into English with the word “Gospel” means simply, “good news.” How can becoming a Christian be considered good news if it means a life of burdensome discomfort?

Religion lives and breathes asceticism; that is, there is within the religious, the thought that in order to become closest to God, pleasure must be sloughed off. Christians give up chocolate for Lent, though some joke about giving up liver. Monks and nuns, the priests of Catholicism and the Bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy give up marriage—and thus sex—and are counted especially holy. Those who arise early, who spend hours in prayer, who take vows of poverty, who wear sackcloth, who sleep little and work much, are considered the most righteous of all. The more they chose to suffer, to go without, to experience deprivation, the more closely they are believed—and believe themselves—to be closer to God.

And yet, Jesus said his burden is light, his yoke is easy.

Like the old saying from the old story, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

Did Jesus redefine easy and light to mean miserable and hard? I don’t think so. But perhaps love really is difficult for some folks. Maybe they really do find their brother a bothersome load.

Send to Kindle

About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
This entry was posted in Bible, Religion, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *