Reading: John 8:31-36
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Freedom can mean lots of things, often freedom from something that keeps folks captive, such as oppression, or addiction, or as we hear it presented in this reading, even being enslaved to sin. Being enslaved means lack of control. When we read this, especially in the context of sin, perhaps some might question that. Isn’t this simply about choices we make? Can’t we simply make the decision to stop sinning, and the problem is solved?
The disciples don’t quite understand what Jesus is talking about, which is not that uncommon. We don’t always quite understand what Jesus is talking about either. Sometimes we as Christians can’t even agree on what Jesus is trying to tell us.
What is sin anyway? Even that part, we sometimes understand differently. How we judge some actions, such as murdering people, or stealing, seems pretty clear-cut when we consider what’s sinful. Other things may not be quite that clear-cut, depending on our understanding of scripture.
I think sin is a bit bigger than simply clear-cut choices. Sin is such an ingrained part of who we are as human beings, that we cannot free ourselves from it. We cannot simply “stop sinning,” and become perfect. Many of the religious authorities in Jesus’ day certainly tried, but Jesus often had harsh words for them, especially when they thought that they had greater favor with God than those who knew they were sinners and understood their need for God’s grace.
Jesus sets us free. Only God can forgive us and make us right with God. We can never do that, no matter how “good” we are. Jesus is able to set us free, because he is God’s son. That’s the freedom we are talking about here. Our sins are forgiven, because Jesus took upon himself all our sins, so now, we are free to live our lives differently, because of it. We have been set free to live our lives, loving God and neighbor, the best we know how, realizing that we will mess up along the way, yet there will be forgiveness, rather than judgment. And for that, we give thanks to God!
Holy God, we thank you for setting us free; free from our sins, free to love you and those whom we encounter in our lives. Help us to use this freedom, not to take it lightly, but to grow as followers of your son Jesus.