Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Truth Will Make You Free

This past Saturday was July 4th, Independence Day here in the United States, and a day during which we celebrate our freedom. I wondered what Jesus had to say about freedom, and I found one passage that scholars feel are his words:
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." (John 8:31-32)
He says that commiting sin will make you a slave, so you don't want to go in that direction. "Continue in my word", and you will be a son who has a permanent place in the household. "So if the Son [the Truth?] makes you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)

In some ways, John is a difficult Gospel for me. I love the abstractions and symbolism that appear here, yet I often don't understand the underlying message. That puts me in the company of the disciples, so I don't fret overly much about it, but it does make for some dilemmas. Truth leads to freedom, but freedom in what way? Not freedom from oppression. The Jews of the time didn't have much hope of that. Jesus is talking more, I think, of freedom from sin and freedom of the spirit. I believe that the way to freedom hinges on the first of Jesus' instructions "If you continue in my word..."

At Sunday service, when the children were asked what they thought freedom meant, one of them said that you could do what you wanted. My gut reaction was, "But if we all did what we wanted, what would that world look like?" The American Heritage Dictionary groups the synonyms of freedom, liberty, and license and expands on the child's definition. "These nouns refer to the power to act, speak, or think without externally imposed restraints. Freedom is the most general term."

I understand from John's Gospel that Jesus asks us to use an internally imposed restraint--"continue in my word". And I like this instruction from the First Letter of Peter:
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.(1 Peter 2:16-17)
In our freedom, God's gift of Free Will, we may, indeed, do what we want. Murderers do, drunk drivers do. But Peter reminds us, " not use your freedom as a pretext for evil," and then goes on to say what we should do. I can wrap my arms around this type of freedom. I take some exception to Peter's "Honor the emperor." Gives me a jolt every time I read it. I don't have an emperor, but I do have a government. I have a set of laws, a system of regulations that help us live together in society. In my world, this is the "emperor" and Peter's advice is still good. I am asked to honor that government, to support it when it's honoring everyone, to help fix it when it's broken.

I'll admit this is not a very coherent post, but freedom is like that. We know what it is when we see it, experience it, but it's hard to express.

What's freedom like for you? Have you found freedom in continuing in Jesus' word? What is the truth that has set you free? I'd like to know.

1 comment:

  1. For myself, the freedom Jesus is talking about in John's passage is the level of "peace" I experience that flows out of the comfortableness I have with my understanding of my position on an issue. The more connected I feel with God the more secure I feel in my position. With this freedom comes responsibility. I "freely choose" to carry the burden from any repercussions that may develop out of my actions because I truly feel that I am responding in the way God wants me to.

    "Freedom" is not the ability to do whatever I want but the ability to stand up for what I believe is right. Therefore, there will inevitably going to be times when I support my country or my church, . . etc. and there will be times when I am in opposition. In other words, I am free from the restraints that come from "Having two masters". I am free to choice God over church or state. Now don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that laws or rules do not have a place but that place is to help maintain a social order that places the common good over personal interests. The question is not what is good for me or my country or my church but what is good for the human family. This calls for sacrifice at times. Some will argue that this means we are not truly free but I disagree because we are free to make the choice of what we place as priorities in our life. I freely choose to place God first.

    The grace of "freewill" gives me that out when I am unable to met the challenges placed before me. God lovely stands by and allows me to work it out for myself. He waits patiently for me to increase my understanding, to grow in faith and wisdom at my own pace.