I’m a pastor. But way before I was a pastor, I decided to follow Jesus.
I was 16 years old when I made that decision. And while I’ve certainly looked around, up, and even looked down over the past 20 years since, I’ve never looked back. Not once have I ever entertained a thought of what my life would be like had I not made that decision. I don’t need to.
And while that decision was the life-altering one, it was one that came with a stark combination of lightness of spirit and severity of heart. It was, is and always will be what I’d like to refer to as the “glorious burden”. And believe me, as I write this I’m in the thick of it. I’m no achiever. I’m no “got it figured out” kind of guy. I’m not even sure you should read this because the one writing it routinely has more questions than answers.
The word burden gets a bad rap sometimes. And I suppose that’s natural and for obvious reasons. But still I think we can rethink the word burden and come away with a greater clarity to our call. For instance, being a parent is a burden. Ask anyone who is one. They’ll agree. Parenting is burdensome. Being responsible for one (or in my case, four) human beings is not a sunshiney barefoot stroll on cool moss. It’s tough. But ask any parent if they bear that burden gladly and without any hesitation they’ll assure you that the burden is indeed one they happily carry. Most parents will go on to extol the love they have for their kids; how they’d gladly lay down their life for any one of their children, no matter what their age or station in life.
So, the issue of burden is one that is unmistakably taught in the Bible. Jesus Himself said as plainly as can be that to follow Him necessitates some very key and non-negotiable ingredients; self-denial, sacrifice, and cross-carrying to name just a few. But I myself found the cross of Christ to be a burden that wasn’t so glorious at all before I understood the right He has to me, my life, and everything I know, have and am.
We make excuses sometimes for not following, don’t we? Jesus told a parable (short story with a Cracker Jack prize hidden inside) about a king who threw a banquet. He sent out his servant to tell his invited guests that the party was ready and that they should come and get down. But when the servant went to the invited guests, they had reasons why they couldn’t come. And if you look closely (or at all for that matter), you see that the reasons were nothing more than lame excuses.
Reason #1: “I just bought some land and I have to go and inspect it.” Are you kidding me? Who buys land without first checking it out? I’d like to sell that guy some prime Florida real estate!
Reason #2: “I just bought a yoke of oxen and I need to go and try them out.” Who goes to the dealership, walks up to a car and says, “I’ll take it.” without first kickin’ the tires, taking a test drive and running it through its paces? I’d like to get that guy on the phone and sell him my pristine ’92 Crown Vic. The Blue Book on it is about $5.57 but don’t tell him.
Reason #3: “I just got married, so I can’t come.” Okay, this one I can MAYBE understand. Being a married man, I can imagine what’s going on in this guy’s mind. But still, are you telling me your bride wouldn’t enjoy a nice time at a swanky party? C’mon man, live a little. Show your bride she married a partyer.
And here’s the part of the story that I love–the king says to his servant, “Then go to the streets, to the highways, to the underpasses, to the parks, to the malls, to the neighborhoods, to the bars, to the red light district, and to the shady part of town. Tell them “whosoever will” may come to my party!
So, yes Jesus calls us to self-denial. Yes He calls us to sacrifice. Yes He calls us to carry our cross. But the glory of it all is that it’s His party we’re invited to. It’s His guestlist we’re on. It’s His eternity we step into when we choose to accept the invitation to carry this Glorious Burden.