“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 ESV)
Some people carry burdens they don’t have to.
If you are walking from the parking garage toward the airport terminal and a traveling companion offers to carry one of your cumbersome bags, you would be foolish to refuse his/her assistance. Right?
Christ makes that offer to us. Perhaps, you are burdened by sorrow, or a grudge, or jealousy. Doesn’t it make sense to hand it over to Him? Christ is willing to do that for you. Just let Him.
In a recent installment of “Dear Amy,” an advice column, a middle-aged man wrote about a problem. When he and his girlfriend were both sixteen years old, they conceived a baby, who was later placed with adoptive parents. The young man and the girlfriend then decided to go different ways. Each married and raised their respective families.
Now, the middle-aged man is concerned that the grown daughter, searching for her biological roots and a portion of her own identity, may someday ring his doorbell. Since he has not told his children that they have a half-sibling, he is concerned about the disruption that this revelation would cause in his family. In his letter to “Dear Amy,” he described his past behavior as “terrible,” “a mistake,” and “sordid.” He wanted to know if he should tell his grown children about what happened when he was sixteen.
I surmised that he might have a bigger problem than coming clean to his kids. I think his number one problem is spiritual, namely, guilt.
Yes! What he did was wrong.
No! He doesn’t need to burden himself with his mistake for the rest of his life. In Lutheran thought, the man knows the Law and he has been condemned by it, but he has neither heard nor received the Gospel. And this is the Gospel, the Good News; There is forgiveness in Jesus Christ! The man does not know that he can be forgiven and freed from guilt by confession and absolution. Luther refers to this process as “The Happy Exchange.” We give Christ our sin and guilt and He, in return, imparts to us a measure of His righteousness.
The Church is the only institution on earth which offers forgiveness. Forgiveness is offered through the two Sacraments–Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Luther also remarked that the Christian life is one of daily penance. We recognize our sin, confess our sin, and receive forgiveness, confident of God’s mercy, everyday. That is why Luther often said, “I am baptized,” present tense.
In her reply to the distraught man, Amy recommended a secular form of forgiveness but stopped short of advising him to hand his burden over to Christ. I understand that, given the current prejudice against expressions of Christian faith, Amy would have been ridiculed for giving that man the best possible advice.
Many of us are similar to that man or, at least, share a similar problem. We carry a burden which we don’t have to. Someone else is willing to shoulder that heavy load. That “burden” is guilt and that “someone” is Christ.
Give it gladly to Him and He will give you rest.