Christian’s freedom

In John 8.30-37 Jesus shows us how he conceives the Christian’s freedom as well as its scope.

Even as he spoke, many believed in him.To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”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, “Very truly I tell you, 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. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.

Key questions : relationship between Jesus-Christ and God

Jesus Christ teaches in the Temple courtyard, near the offering trunk.
He addresses key questions: what relationship exists between God and Jesus, His Son, what is Jesus Christ’s mission and how does He reveal God the Father?

Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8.19)

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me(John 8.28)

Even as he spoke, many believed in him.(John 8.30)

Discerning the bottom of their hearts, Jesus is forced to clarify his words. He challenges his listeners about the nature of their budding faith. Thus, following Jesus does not consist in a mere intellectual assent that could lead to a superficial faith. Following him is persevering in his teachings and practicing them.
Now let us consider Jesus’ thought and argument dealing with the Jews who ask him questions.

1) How can we become free women and men?

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)

The conversion, whether radical or more gradual, is a U-turn followed by a change of direction. Repentance, the reception of forgiveness of sins and choosing to follow Jesus Christ are the very first steps. However it is clear that all the chains of sin, bad habits, traditions do not fall suddenly. It would be interesting to hear what each of us can tell about that. Discovering and knowing the truth and then applying ourselves to follow the teachings of the Master are a long process, a learning which brings gradually freedom.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14.6)

The actually lived reality is rarely an ever-ascending line which would symbolize a flawless spiritual walk. In our life we at times take blind alleys and shortcuts that are not shorter, as Israel did in the desert. So, yes, to exercise faith means to depend more and more on God, to discern the chains of sin that hold us and the beam which blinds our eyes. It is to be willing to be malleable clay in the hands of the divine potter. Jesus himself is full of grace and truth (John 1:14) for those who really want to know freedom.

2. What have we to be released from?

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8.34)

By nature, man is enslaved to evil, to sin. He is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Proposing freedom presupposes the existence of a state of slavery.
The Jews who listen to Jesus are shocked and scandalized by his statement. They are descendants of Abraham, therefore heirs of the promises reserved for the chosen people. It is a title they claim and they are proud of.

 We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free ? (John 8.33)

Jesus says to them: “This is an illusion, you delude yourselves”.

Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8.34)

and he adds further

I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. (John 8.37)

Jesus came into the world to die on a cross and liberate men from their sins. This is not a political or social freedom Jesus offers, but the possibility and the only one to break the bondage of sin.

What is the current discourse in the twenty-first century

According to the current criteria of our society, there are really no standards or ethical references. So it is difficult to distinguish good from evil. The notion of sin and transgression of divine law is no longer fashionable. Man is called to blossom as he sees fit, without constraint or limit. This reappears in the education of children.

3. What is the threat to the freedom of a Christian?

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5.1)

This quote from Paul refers to the debate which then agitated the Church, about the reason for circumcision, a visible outward sign of belonging to the people of Israel. Some Jews converted to the Christian faith (the Judaizing) wanted to impose it on Christians coming from paganism.
The temptation or trap is clear: it would consist in resubmitting people to the rules imposed by the Jewish Law of the Old Testament.

The giving up of the gospel is often motivated by the illusion of being free. This means being blind to the reality of the human condition under the influence of evil and evil spiritual forces. It is therefore difficult to provide a remedy to the patient who does not know his disease. On the cross Jesus paid the price to make possible to break with sin.

Practicing circumcision means that the Cross is not quite sufficient: we must add something which in this case is specific to the Jewish people.
Justification by grace alone is perfectly adequate, but the temptation of salvation through merits is still prevalent today. We readily assess the spirituality of others in their zeal to evangelize, their beautiful prayers, their attendance at church meetings etc.

So what is freedom properly understood?

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5.13-14

The opposite would be:

If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other (Galatians 5:15)

Let us not use an inadequate reading grid, but rather Galatians 5. 22: a life lived under the effective leadership of the Holy Spirit.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.(Galatians 5.22-23)

For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.(Galatians 5.5)

4. One lives christian’s freedom not against but with our neighbor

Living Christian freedom does not mean the absence of any constraint or limitation. And my neighbor is that limit, because he is different from me in many ways: education, age, life course and personality. Paul said that he is nobody’s slave, but he made himself slave (servant) to win as many people as possible to Christ.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible  (1 Corinthians 9.19)

The exercise of our freedom cannot do without love and a spirit of service. Freedom is built into a relational framework. There is a clear link between freedom and love.

Healthy freedom in Christ

Living a healthy freedom in Christ can be summarized as: being closely united with Jesus Christ and following his teachings. Is to renounce the slavery of sin by the power of the cross, to be sure to depend on grace alone. And especially to let my neighbor enjoy my freedom.

W. K.