“The People Who Don't Want to Be Free”Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford
One of the most revealing exchanges in the Bible occurs in John 8:31-33. Jesus promises the Jews freedom through following Him and learning His truth, and the Jews turn Him down flat. The problem is that in order to be freed, the Jews had to have been slaves, and they don’t want to acknowledge that. In their own words, “We are descendants of Abraham, and we have never been enslaved to anyone.”
Logically speaking, the first half of the statement doesn’t appear to have a whole lot of relevance to the second. In the Bible, Abraham’s descendants spend a lot of time being slaves: to the Egyptians, to the Moabites, the Midianites, and the Philistines, and to the Assyrians and the Babylonians. In fact, even since the restoration from captivity, the Jews largely have been under the control of a foreign power and not ruling themselves. They certainly wanted a Messiah who would liberate them from the Romans!
However, Jesus isn’t even talking about that. He’s talking about slavery to sin, which everyone since the time of Adam has experienced. Nonetheless, because they hate the label of “slave” so much, the Jews refuse to listen to the One who offers them freedom.
Today, much the same thing happens. We live in a sin-sick society, and yet perversely, so many celebrate the sins that enslave them as sources of freedom. We are sexually liberated, and yet sexual sin leaves in its wake STD’s, abortion, single-parent families, divorce, and broken homes. We are free to pursue our greed, and the result is giant houses that we don’t spend time in filled with junk we don’t use, and ever-increasing salaries vanish beneath ever-increasing mountains of debt. We are free to speak our minds, but our careless words produce contention, division, and bitterness, both in our in-person relationships and online.
The result appears paradoxical to anyone who doesn’t understand the schemes of Satan. We have all this freedom, and we exercise our freedom freely, but we end up enslaved and unhappy. Some kind of freedom that is!
So too, submission to Christ leads to a paradoxical result. Discipleship is demanding. It requires us to shun the worldly pleasures in which our friends and neighbors revel. Rather than looking like fun, walking the strait and narrow looks like a lot of work!
However, when we discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, we make a strange discovery. Just as the freedom of sin leads to servitude, so too servitude to Christ leads to freedom. We learn that the things we are tempted to do are not good for us and do not benefit us, and we find joy in the practice of righteousness. We are set free from sin, not only from its guilt, but from the misery of its dominion.
The life of the Christian is indeed a life of freedom, a life intended for the flourishing of humankind. When we are not crushed beneath our pleasures, we can dedicate ourselves to the noble joys of loving God and loving one another. We are freed to be merciful, to be compassionate, to be kind, to be peaceable, to be gentle, and to be grateful. Ironically, only when we give ourselves over wholly to Christ do we truly find ourselves.