Instinctively, humans are social or group animals connected, often strongly, to family and friends. One of costs of discipleship means following the call to an individual “Way.” This means that you will have to separate yourself from the collective psychology of a group.
Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth; it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34/Luke 12:51
A sword, John A. Sanford says, is something that divides and separates. “Christ as the Word of God is a living sword,” he continues, “dividing and separating what was once merged together in order that individual differentiation may take place.”
This individuation process can be likened to a purging, in which the individual, no longer connected to a group identification, is plunged into the inner fire and purified.
Jesus also said: If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14: 25-26
If identification with our families is preventing us from achieving our individuality, we will often have the motif of hating in our dreams: rejecting a parent, fighting with someone we love, or other struggles with those close to us usually means that there is a need to inwardly break from an unconscious identification with a family figure.
“The fight, quarrel, or struggle against someone in our dream expresses the need to differentiate ourselves psychologically in order that we may become free and individual,” Sanford says.
Jesus, in essence, is saying that the call to the kingdom must come before our loyalty to family, to Church, to our country. No other commitment can be allowed to come before our commitment to following the inner way, according to Sanford.
“For Jesus there is no merging of the personality back into the divine,” he says, “but the affirmation of personality in all its completeness.”
In other words, not absorption into God, but personality fulfillment and relationship to God, are the goals of Christianity.
“Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
This paradox can be understood more easily when related to our knowledge of the unconscious. The unconscious is like a great weight when it affects us in a way we do not understand.
“The one who has no relationship to the unconscious world is affected by it but experiences it negatively as a dark burden,” Sanford says. “This heaviness of the unrealized inner world is suggested in dreams by the familiar motif of trying to run but finding it impossible or extremely difficult to move, as though affected by extreme inertia.”
The yoke of Christ is the yoke of becoming conscious. The yoke might be a burden because it lays requirements on us, but in the long run, it is a light burden because in the service of this One there is perfect freedom.
“. . . in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom” (A Collect for Peace, Book of Common Prayer)
Next Week: The Pharisee in Each of Us