Yesterday there was a story about abortion on NPR and it is quite newsworthy alone to note that they actually used the “A” word. The piece covered whether a new law in Texas was too burdensome on women seeking an abortion. The new law would close a number of abortion centers because they did not meet the standard of an entity that medically treats people. The burdensome aspects that were pointed out in the segment were three:
ü Some women would have to drive further within the state.
ü Those women would have to take more time off from work.
ü They would also have to find childcare for the children they decided to keep.
The legal question asks is this law such a heavy burden that this new law must be thrown out.
Conversely, in today’s readings we are told that if we love God we will follow His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome. They certainly seem so, however, given the poor way we have taught them. They are presented largely as a set of “Don’t”s. 1) Don’t have sex outside of marriage. 2) Don’t use contraception. 3) Don’t support same sex marriage. Etc. etc. etc.
So why does societies laws seem so pastoral and Christ’s seem so burdensome? Because Christ is concerned about tomorrow and society is worried about today. Society wants to solve your problem or need right now. Christ wants you to experience freedom and joy in the long run.
Here is a silly yet pertinent example: The last piece of pizza!
After having their fill of pizza, your friends say for you to have the very last piece. They couldn’t possibly eat another bite. You are full also but there it is: warm, salty, melted cheesy goodness. Your mouth waters. Your brain screams, “Take it! Take it!” The scent fills your nose with the promise of greasy delights.
Now, you certainly have the right and license to take that last piece. You have the desire. You have the support of the gathering. So you go ahead and eat it and it is every bit as wonderful as you hoped. But within minutes you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I stop? Now I am stuffed to the gills. I feel terrible.” You go to bed on an overly full stomach and the next morning it is still sitting there and the thought pops into your head, “I’m going to have to work that off today.”
Let’s say you take your faith seriously which means watching out for yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically. You exercise your freedom from having to eat that last piece and put it in the refrigerator. In an hour you will not be thinking, “Darn! I wish I had eaten that last slice of pizza.” In fact, you feel comfortably full. You wake up the next morning appropriately hungry for breakfast AND there is a slice of pizza in the refrigerator for lunch.
That is the freedom and joy God wants for you. That is why His ways are not burdensome even when they seem that they are.