We all carry an invisible backpack. Sometimes it is light, sometimes heavy. At other times, the backpack becomes a crushing load. We are unable to carry it because we kept adding things to it and did not take the time to unload anything. Every day, many people lug such an invisible backpack around everywhere they go. Over time, the backpack begins to smell because unacknowledged grief, unawareness of emotions, and the pile up of life’s difficulties become like a pair of stinky gym socks that got tossed in the backpack with hard feeling after hard feeling caked on top of it.
Something unfortunate then happens: The backpack becomes our Master. It begins to influence the way we talk, what we do, and do not do. It becomes a heavy and even crushing load because rather than Christ, the Spirit, and the Scriptures informing and influencing what we say and do, the invisible backpack calls the shots. It is the weight of sin.
The dominate word for “sin” throughout the New Testament means to miss the mark or to fall short.
It is not a word meaning some terrible egregious wrong committed against another. Rather, it is the most common form of sin there is – simply failing to deal with what humanity needs to deal with – and so, out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, those items are never out of the heart’s view.
The Apostle Paul’s way of framing this situation is this: Do not offer our lives to wickedness but offer ourselves to God (Romans 6:12-23). When we have become so accustomed to the invisible backpack as our master that we cannot imagine life without carrying it around, we must take it off. We need to carefully unpack each item we have stuffed into it and allow ourselves to face the pain and hurt and take up Christ’s easy backpack, his yoke.
Since we are redeemed people, baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, we no longer need nor ought to carry a load of sin any longer.
We were meant to have a Master and to carry a backpack – just not the backpack of our shortcomings and failures. Instead, we are to throw over our shoulders the backpack of mercy and righteousness and follow the Master, Jesus Christ. Who is your Master? is not meant to be a scolding question. It is an encouraging question, an invitation to unburden ourselves.
Jesus Christ, by his grace, took the backpack of sin that you and I were carrying and took it upon himself. He took the crushing weight of our backpacks of sin for us. Jesus took out those stinky gym socks; they were then nailed with him to the cross. We no longer need to carry this smelly load of sin any longer because Jesus already carried it for us and took care of it. Yet, so many of us still insist on taking up the invisible backpack and keep putting stuff in it.
Therefore, we must deliberately and intentionally take off that invisible backpack. Since the backpack is invisible, most of us would never guess that another carries such a heavy load. Instead, what we do see is the backpack causing another to work himself into the ground so as to continue ignoring the hurt, to keep everything completely clean and in control on the outside because on the inside it is emotional chaos.
What appears on the outside may not be true of the inside.
For example, when you see my ten-year-old grandson you would never know on the outside that his brain is having immense struggles with epilepsy and seizures on the inside. And when we look at one another in the church and the world, we cannot assume that just because everything may seem okay on the outside that the inside is fine. Our stronghold of secrecy and invisibility needs to be broken and pulled down in Jesus’ name!
Brothers and sisters, Jesus took on your backpack for you – you need no longer carry it. Take it off, unpack it, and let the healing of Christ’s cross bring you freedom from your weight. It is time to put off the backpack of sin and put on Christ’s righteousness. It is time to say with some flavor, “I will not carry you any longer, old Master, because I belong to God!”
Often our struggle is with opposing forces operating within us: righteousness opposed to sin; freedom opposed to slavery; and, a gift opposed to wages. The main point is one of mastery: Who is your Master? The hard work we must do is the ongoing work of confession and offering our lives to God:
- “I will not carry a load of ignored items any longer because I belong to God.”
- “I will not carry an unresolved load of pain any longer so that I continue using my tongue to gossip and slander and backbite another, because my tongue is not my own. My tongue belongs to God.”
- “I will not be burdened by the clock and let it control my life, because my time is not my own. My time belongs to God and I will steward it wisely.”
- “I will not carry the troubles of my job with me by working myself into the ground, because my job belongs to God and my Master calls me to a Sabbath rest.”
- “I will unload this backpack of pain and deal so that I do not keep compulsively spending my money, because my money belongs to God.”
- “The invisible backpack no longer has any power over me because I have unloaded it, grieved my hurts and losses, and have moved to taking on Christ’s backpack. I belong to Jesus Christ!”
Show me a miserable Christian, and I will show you a Christian who is carrying the crushing weight of an invisible backpack that informs and influences every decision and each action.
So, take up Christ’s backpack of grace, without trying to serve two masters: law and grace. There is always a temptation to try and make deals with God – to unload some of the backpack but not all of it. We might also have a kind of spiritual Stockholm Syndrome which has affinity with the old master, even it was abusive. Holy Scripture never advocates an attitude adjustment or behavior modification; it talks of doing away with the backpack completely because Christ has already taken care of it.
Watchman Nee was a twentieth-century Chinese Christian leader and a contemporary of Chairman Mao in China. In exhorting his fellow Chinese to live for Christ, he said,
“The trouble with many Christians today is that they have an insufficient idea of what God is asking of them. How glibly they say: ‘Lord, I am willing to do anything for you.’ Do you know that God is asking of you your very life? There are cherished ideals, strong wills, precious relationships, much-loved work, that will have to go; so, do not give yourself to God unless you mean it. God will take you seriously, even if you did not mean it seriously.”
We are meant to deal with the pain and the hurts we have accumulated but have not lamented over. There is no spiritual growth and development apart from doing this. We cannot have Christ as our Master until we get rid of all competing masters first. In fact, what has the backpack every really done for you? What benefit do you receive from lugging it around everywhere? The wages of continually carrying the non-confessed load on our backs will eventually catch up to us. But the gift of God is freedom from sin and a life under the new management of Jesus Christ. Praise be to God!