“This is my beloved son. …yield to him.”
—Luke 9:35 (Amp)
There’s a word we see a lot but no longer say a lot. We see the word or its symbol on many a residential street corner and it’s implied at every yellow light. But in terms of modern English, the word has narrowed in meaning and almost into disuse except among farmers.
It’s also an important Bible word, used about 38-40 times depending on the translation. But a more exhaustive search of 12 different English translations yields the word 94 different times (here’s the exhaustive listing).
Sometimes really important sermons or teachings stick in my mind for a very long time. One example was circa 1983 when Henry Hildebrand, founder of my alma mater, outlined the key points of Romans 6 as “Know, Reckon, Yield.” In that context, yield means something like offer/give yourself or surrender to.
It came up again this morning as I was chatting with someone about the importance of daily surrender when dealing with addictions. Neither of us recognized there was a block until I happened to use the word surrender and yield interchangeably. We suddenly realized that ‘surrender’ to her evoked a sense of falling that created resistance. But yield seemed to be a new and more helpful word. That got me meditating, then digging, then meditating some more.
As I read through the list of passages (I hope you do too), I recognized anew that when a word goes into disuse, sometimes we also lose the ideas and practices it conveyed. This is unfortunate. In the interest of expanding our range of word, thoughts, and deeds, here is what I noticed:
- Yield means ‘give way’ or ‘yield right of way’. While the yellow light signals “speed up” to an alarming percentage of drivers, a yield sign is usually enough to say slow down, watch out, look both ways and wait for the traffic to thin out. In short, it means ‘others first.’ That’s a beautiful Christian human principle when you think of it. Prefer the other. Put their interests first. Make space for their voice. Let them have a turn.
I believe in self-care for sure, but we know that me-first culture can become super-selfish, competitive, and merciless. Let’s face it: for all its supposed merits and promises of ‘great yields,’ the marketplace is generally more orientated toward exploiting than yielding. Speaking of which…
- Yield means ‘produce,’ both as a noun and as a verb. I mentioned farming. A crop yields (produces) a yield (the produce). It may surprise readers to know this is the primary use of yield in the Bible. Our Creator has created a world that, when stewarded well, yields produce for our good. I love the economics of the natural world. Animals that produce huge litters of offspring, seeded plants that produce an enormous harvest. Think about a single apple seed when it becomes a fruit-bearing tree.
This fruit-bearing extends to humanity. Humanity was created to be fruitful and multiply… and I’m not just talking children. We yield produce of all types. Healthy companies yield products and people (employment) and profits. Healthy societies yield peaceful, just and stable communities. Healthy hearts yield the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships—“a harvest of righteousness.”
In that sense, yielding is also seen as offering what we yield to God and to the world. The yield of our lives is an offering that, according to Christ, God expects of those to whom he has given so much. Remember the parables about God’s investments (whether the ‘vineyard’ in Matt. 20 or ‘talents’ in Matt. 25)? The backstory of those parables is the ‘song of the vineyard’ in Isaiah 5, where God laments over the failure of his people. “He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; or righteousness, but heard cries of distress” (vs. 7). Connected to this…
- Yield means to submit, surrender, or obey. These words are profane to the world system of me, my, mine. “My will be done” or mastery became the highest moral value of the world system, its governments, its economies, and its supposedly enlightened ‘autonomous individual.’ And how’s that working for us? To quote Tapper, it’s a “hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.”
One healthcare professional wrote to me about his grief over so many folks whose sense of personal moral indignation is contributing to their own mental illness. He says the science is clear about that. To summarize his analysis in my own words,
“Woke-righteousness” is generating soul-crushing resentment that devolves into malicious othering and a mental health crisis. Gratitude, forgiveness, and surrender are the first order of treatment.
In other words, we need to yield. We need to surrender this exhausting burden and learn to let go. We come to Christ with our hunger and thirst for righteousness and receive the gift of mercy—our daily bread nourishment for the path of restorative justice.
Yielding to God as Christ did (through unselfish love)—and yielding to the crucifixion of self-will (my way or the highway) … this is the kenotic way of Phil. 2. The way of neighbor-love and the way of enemy-love. It’s the better way.
Yielding. It’s the Jesus Way.