Today in the USA we celebrate our freedom as a nation. A freedom which means an aspiration of opportunity for all- in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In John 8 we read something of how Jesus viewed freedom. His fellow Israel longed to be delivered from under the boot of Rome. They saw themselves as in a kind of captivity, as many of them looked forward to a coming deliverer from God, who would fulfill God's promises to them so that they, from their beloved Jerusalem as capital, would be the governor of the world.
We find Jesus, in that passage, pointing to himself as that deliverer they were longing for. And that this deliverance was not only from the enemy without, but from the enemy within. Sin. Jesus made it clear to them that they were slaves- slaves to sin, regardless of whether they were under foreign rule or not. And really why they were under foreign rule and not under God's kingdom. This was a bitter pill for them to swallow. In fact many of them refused Jesus' words. Only a minority, and small at that, really openly embraced them at that time.
One of our biggest enemies of freedom, which is still a popular concept to the masses today, is that we view it in terms of our own imagination. And if our imaginations are not steeped in the Story of God found in Scripture, then we can miss the boat as to what freedom really is.
Therefore we have all the self-help books and new-old spiritualities as people seek to do something about the bondage they sense within. Here in the United States we give our attention to that, since we have relative freedom externally (except for those whose circumstances are difficult due to systemic evil).
What are the bondages people are wanting to be set free from? And what is their view of freedom? These are important questions. Jesus made it clear to his contemporaries that their concerns and belief about freedom were mistaken. That their real bondage and real freedom would only be found through him. Sin was their trouble, and is ours. Only knowing the truth through being set free by the Son would bring them, and us, to true freedom.
I am one who is often wrestling to get free of something. Those somethings are problems and part of the problem, often the biggest part, or the real problem can become my response to them. But one needs to slow down, and stop, and listen to what Jesus is saying here. "Look to me. I alone can set you free. And I will if you will listen and follow me."
We must do this as individuals, but we also must do this together, as those of the Jesus community. As we do so, we display what true freedom is really like, in the love and truth of the reality of the kingdom of God. And we seek to bring this kingdom to bear on all the tyrannies of this world. We begin with ourselves in our own little worlds. But we move out from there. To our loved ones. To our neighbors. To those who are troubled and hurting. To those in need. Ultimately to the ends of the earth. We bring this same message of freedom in Jesus. If we follow Jesus, then this is where this freedom will take us. A freedom that would embrace all, and help all to live in God's good kingdom, as no less than his very children, no longer slaves at all. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.