John 8:33-36 (NIV)
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Jesus’ statement to the people that if they continued to live according to His teachings, they would know the truth that would set them free, triggered a very strange response. Instead of simply receiving this word from Jesus as they had all of those before, they instantly sprang into denial mode.
In Jesus’ day, there were only two modes of existence, freedom, meaning that you had no one who owned you and directed your life, and slavery, in which you were under the control of another. No one wanted to be thought of as a slave, as belonging to someone else and having no ability to determine their own destiny. So, these listeners instantly rejected that label, and went a step further, this step clear outside reality: they claimed that they, the Jewish people, had never been enslaved by anyone. They completely denied the 430 years that they had had lived in Egypt (Exodus 12:40), the vast majority of that time as slaves. And it completely discounted the previous 600 years of their history, since the Babylonians had taken over rulership of their nations and had taken practically the whole remainder of the country into exile in Babylonia for 70 years, followed by a string of nations who had rolled through and conquered the area that they lived in. Even in the days of Jesus, they were under the rulership of Rome and had very few rights as a nation to determine their own direction or destiny. They were all, right then, living as servants of another culture, but were in complete denial.
But there was a deeper, more significant yoke of slavery that they had allowed to be placed on their necks, about which they were also in denial: the yoke of slavery to sin. This yoke is insidious, because it actually goes by the name of freedom and autonomy, the very opposites of what it does to a person.
Sin promises freedom, but with each sin, the menu of available options shrinks. It promises autonomy and self-determination while enslaving people to habits and addictions that restrict what they can decide to do. And sin enslaves even the thought life, with sinful images and ideas entering unbidden into a person’s mind, robbing them of time and focus.
Jesus, on the other hand, promises real freedom to all who follow His teachings. Not merely physical freedom, but freedom from the bondage of the power and control of sin. Freedom to choose the right; freedom from addictions, and even freedom from intrusive sinful thoughts. In Jesus, even those who live under the bondage of physical slavery can be fully free inside, with a freedom that their worldly masters can only dream of.
Father, I have experienced the bondage of sin, although I believed at the time that I was actually free. But how heavy those bonds looked after Jesus broke me free of them and brought me into the true freedom that only can only be experienced by those who serve You wholeheartedly. Free indeed! Thank You, thank You, thank You!