The ministry of John the Baptist mostly preceded that of Jesus. John’s message was one of repentance; he proclaimed the coming of the Savior. Although some of his followers went on to become disciples of Jesus,1 others evidently stayed at John’s side.
John is traditionally recognized as having been a zealous teacher. Perhaps his strictness could be partly attributed to being a Nazarite from birth, which meant he was not permitted to drink alcohol or cut his hair, and also had to abide by other restrictions.2 Evidently he also expected quite a bit from his followers, as on one occasion, some of them asked Jesus: “Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don’t?”3
Perhaps they were puzzled—and a little envious—of the more relaxed lifestyle of Jesus’ disciples. Maybe there was even a bit of self-righteous chiding in this question, implying that it was high time for Jesus to make His followers shape up. In any case, Jesus replied: “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”4 It sounds like He was saying, “Lighten up. Troubles will come soon enough, so enjoy these moments of peace while you have them.”
We all sometimes make our lives harder than they need to be, by taking on more than God expects of us. We convolute what could be straightforward. After all, the main thing He wants is love.5 The prophet Micah put it this way: “He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously.”6
Sure, there are occasions when our path is rough or there are life-changing decisions to be made. But when we’re not in the midst of such critical times, maybe we should avoid getting tied up in knots trying to figure out minor details of life. Otherwise, we could end up missing out on the fullness of joy and peace that comes with God’s presence.7
Life is not always complicated, and decisions are not always major. Let’s remember that, and when appropriate, let’s lighten up.