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’?”
In Jesus’ conversation with the Jews who had believed in him, he says that the truth he gives them will make them free. They don’t get it.
They think their ancestry privileges through Abraham already makes them free. They could not relate to the freedom that Jesus was offering through his truth. They forgot about all those times when Israel lived under captivity and were not free. Sometimes we cannot understand what freedom Jesus offers us either, and how his truth can free our lives.
When I think of freedom I remember when I was in the first grade. My teacher, Mrs. Cline informed me that I was spelling my name incorrectly. My Mom taught me to spell it BARBRA. Mrs. Cline said that my name should be spelled BARBARA. I was so upset. So when I got home I told my mom that I had been corrected by Mrs. Cline on how to spell my name, and I showed her how she had told me I should spell it. My Mom showed me my birth certificate, which clearly stated BARBRA. Even though my birth certificate spelled it that way and Mrs. Cline spelled it another and I had to adapt to her spelling, because she put BARBARA on my report card, and that made it official. The rest is history. I had no freedom in how to spell my name, as I was bound by my teacher’s decision. To this day all of my legal documents have my name spelled how Mrs. Cline put it on my report card.
Because of that experience, I stopped using Barbara except when I had to, i.e. driver’s license, etc.. I guess you could say I changed my name, by yielding my freedom on how I was named. That experience early on taught me that we all give up some of our freedoms in order to fit in with the rest of society, and we often adapt to what others think. It is part of our sinful nature to desire acceptance.
However the freedom that Jesus was talking about was the truth of God’s love and forgiveness. God’s loving grace recognizes that we are all sinners and God still loves us in spite of it. We kid ourselves if we say we are not enslaved by our sins. Slavery comes in many forms and perhaps the worst kind is where we ourselves have shaped the chains which bind us. Indeed, Jesus says that we who sin, are in a very real way tied up by our sin, enslaved to it, and to pretend this is not true is fooling ourselves. If we are fortunate, the day comes when we wake up and can’t live in that denial. Yet most of the time we don’t think too much about breaking those chains that bind us. It is so easy to go with the flow and decide that is who we are. Sin repeated over and over again leaves a mark, a deep habit, and scars us in our very being. And while it is so that we may go long stretches of not paying attention to our sin — the day always comes when we wake up and know we need to change some things, things that have become comfortable, and so, we ignored them. That is when we realize that these sins do not edify Jesus in us or who Jesus has called us to be.
What Jesus says to us now is here that we can step out of our denial and into the freedom of the truth that Jesus offers us. Freedom from denial, freedom from pretending we are more than we are. Freedom from feeling we need to hide our failures, our hurts, our neglect, and freedom to be all of who God made us to be among others. By not having to pretend anymore, there is an amazing freedom, and we can depend on Jesus to free us as we trust in his word.
- What do you need to be free of?
- What have you ignored that has bound you and limited who God created you to be?
- Is this a time to let go of those chains that have bound you and let God’s Word free you?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.