This misleading title might have you thinking that I am talking about a particular leadership style. Actually, a gentle leader is a type of dog harness that fits over the nose. Much in the same way that a bridle directs a horse, a gentle leader applies pressure to the sensitive snout area, thus giving the walker more control over 100 lb. terrorist Labrador retrievers. Strong-willed and strong-necked dogs can pull a walker down in their excitement to chew a squirrel if they are wearing a common collar/leash arrangement. Gentle leaders allow the walker to re-direct such nonsense into a more controlled and less hazardous experience for both dog and human.
Sometimes gentle leaders can be mistaken for muzzles. “Is that dog muzzled? Why is your dog muzzled? Will it bite??” No, m’am, my dog is not muzzled. As you can see, her mouth is not constrained by the thin strap over her nose. As to whether or not she will bite, just keep talking….
OK, so in full disclosure, I am going to talk about a particular leadership type. I was just using the dog to lure you in.
Matthew 11 (NIV)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
If you love Handel as much as you love Hamilton, you will recognize that this passage is a beautiful part of Messiah. It is a lovely expression of Jesus’ call to come to him. He assures us that in him we will find rest and peace unlike any the world has to give. Jesus’ love for us comes from the gentle heart of a shepherd for his sheep.
The yoke described in this passage is a reference to the yoke born by two animals as they work in concert together. When a young ox is yoked to an older and more experienced ox, the heavier part of the metal yoke is strapped to the older one; thus the young ox experiences being yoked together with a leader, but having the easier part.
Jesus longs for us to yoke ourselves to him. He takes the heavier part. We are yoked in prayer, in purpose, in mission, in thought, word and deed….we are especially yoked together through the word. But too often we slip out from under the yoke and go it alone, confident in our ability to lead our lives and our ability to control everything.
Maybe you can’t find rest right now. Maybe your work load is so heavy that you long to just put it down and run. Perhaps peace is elusive and circumstances are crushing you under. Possibly you are trying too hard to control everything, and that is getting you nowhere. But that is not what Jesus wants for you:
John 14:27 New International Version (NIV)
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Jesus reminds us to COME. Come unto him. Submit to his authority, let him take the lead in everything, and simply walk humbly beside him. HIS yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Just come, and do not be afraid.
Such a good girl…with her gentle leader.