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A Classic Study - The Invitation, pt. 3

by Soren Kierkegaard

This is the final article of a three part series, which is a classic study written in 1850 by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. The series is an exposition on Christ's "wonderful" invitation in Matthew 11:28. These writings are taken from Kierkegaard's book Indovelse i Christendom, called in English Training in Christianity or Practice in Christianity.-- Ed.

The Invitation - III

"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28; KJV).

"Come here!" For He assumes that they that labor and are heavy laden feel the burden all too heavy, the labor heavy, and now stand in perplexity, heaving sighs--one glancing around searchingly to see if no help is to be found, another with eyes bent down upon the ground because he descried no comfort, a third gazing upward as though from heaven it still must come, but all of them seeking. Therefore He says, "Come here!" Him who has ceased to seek and to sorrow He does not invite.--"Come here!" For He, the Inviter, knows it as a sign of true suffering that one goes apart to brood alone in disconsolate silence, lacking the courage to confide in anyone, not to say the confidence to hope for help. Alas, that demoniac was not the only person possessed by a dumb spirit (cf. Mark 9:17,25). Suffering which does not begin by making the sufferer dumb does not amount to much--no more than love which does not make the lover silent. Sufferers whose tongues run easily over the story of their sufferings neither labor nor are heavy laden. Lo! for this reason the Inviter dare not wait till they that labor and are heavy laden come to Him of their own accord: He Himself lovingly summons them. All His willingness to help would perhaps be no help at this summons, "Come unto Me," it is He in fact who comes to them. Oh, human compassion! Perhaps it may sometimes indicate praiseworthy self-restraint, perhaps also sometimes a genuine and heart-felt sympathy, when thou refrainest from questioning a man who, as may be surmised, is constantly brooding over a hidden suffering; yet how often it may be only worldly wisdom, which has no desire to learn to know too much. Oh, human compassion, how often was it merely a sufferer's secret! And what a burden didst thou feel it to be--almost a punishment upon thy curiosity--when he followed thine invitation and came to thee! But He who utters this saving word, "Come here," was not deceived in Himself when He uttered the word, neither will burden upon Him. He follows the prompting of His heart in uttering it, and His heart follows the word--follow then thou the word, and it will follow thee back to His heart. It is a matter of course; the one thing follows the other--oh, that thou wouldst follow the invitation.--"Come here!" For He assumes that they that labor and are heavy laden are so tired and exhausted, in a state of swoon, that they have forgotten again, as in a stupor, that there is comfort; or, alas, He knows that it is only too true that there is no comfort and help unless it is sought in Him; and so He has to call them to "come here."

"Come here!" For it is characteristic of every society that it possesses a token or a sign of some sort by which one who is a member can be recognized. When a young girl is adorned in a certain manner, one knows that she is on her way to a ball. Come here, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.--"Come here!" Thou dost not need to wear a distinctive outward and visible mark. . .come also with anointed head and a face newly washed, if only thou dost inwardly labor and art heavy laden.

"Come here!" Oh, stand not still, considering the matter. Consider rather, oh, consider that for every instant thou standest still after hearing the invitation, thou wilt in the next instant hear its call fainter and fainter, and thus be withdrawing to a distance though thou be standing at the same spot.--"Come here!" Oh, however tired and weary thou art with thy labor, or with the long, long quest in search of help and salvation, although it seem to thee as if thou couldst not follow one step farther or hold out a moment longer without sinking to the ground--oh, but this one step more, and here is rest! "Come here!" Ah, if there were only one so wretched that he could not come--a sigh is enough, to sigh for Him to also to come here.

(This concludes Kierkegaard's study)

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