Are you ready for some good news?
If Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed.
As we enter the Fourth of July holiday in America, I continue to reflect on the deep, Biblical notion of freedom.
In one view, the whole big story of the Bible is about a journey from slavery to freedom. The people of God were slaves for hundreds of years in Egypt under the cruel tyranny of evil rulers. They cried out to God and He heard their prayer. Through a mediator who was, in a sense, both Egyptian and Hebrew, God moved Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go.
The famous Passover story and the exodus of the people of God from their land of bondage undergirds the whole Old Testament narrative and points to the purpose of Christ’s coming.
When Jesus described His mission to “set the captives free,” He implied: “I am your Passover miracle.” When He declared that the “truth will set you free,” Jesus again pointed to Himself. This is why, in Jesus’ words, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Jesus’ freedom is altogether different from the world’s notion of freedom. Jesus’ freedom, real liberty, is not the absence of responsibility—it is the deep embrace of responsibility.
I once had a parishioner, a fine young man, who made a bad mistake and spent 6 months in prison. He was a husband, father, and businessman with a bright future suddenly tainted by a felony. I went to visit him midway through his incarceration.
“What are the other inmates like?” I asked.
“All types,” he said, “But there’s a kind of inmate that I just don’t understand.”
“It seems like there are some guys who want to be here?”
He went on to tell me about an inmate who was up for possible parole. After the parole hearing, the inmate spoke with my parishioner:
“When they told me all that I was going to have to do on parole, meeting with a parole officer, never travelling, reporting in all the time,” the inmate said, “I told them I didn’t want to. I’m not going to let them tell me what to do all the time.”
So, he stayed in prison.
The irony is obvious. The inmate was “choosing” the “freedom” of prison? Makes no sense.
But every time we think that freedom means the absence of responsibility and long for “no one to tell us what to do”—we, too, miss the point of freedom. Real freedom, Jesus’ freedom, is radical submission to the One who loves you infinitely. That freedom, the freedom of a totally yielded life to the Spirit, will make you free indeed. And that’s the Gospel.