One of the consequences of our ‘me first’, ‘I demand my rights’ culture is a misunderstanding of freedom. Freedom is far too often taken to mean a person is free to do whatever, whenever, wherever. Freedom is viewed as having no restrictions.
Such views have even seeped into the church. Consider Jesus’ words from John 8:31-32. “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.”” This is surely one of the most abused texts in the Bible. I cannot recall all the times I’ve heard someone say or imply, based on these words, that there are no rules in the Christian life – that since Jesus’ grace covers everything, everything is okay. But this indicates a lack of regard for both the condition attached (remaining in Jesus’ teachings) and the sort of freedom in view, namely, freedom from sin (v. 34). The restriction of freedom is: “If you hold to my teaching…the truth will set you free.”
Jesus promises that if we remain in his teaching, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. In Judaism it was the study of the law that set one free (Ps 119:45), so Jesus is claiming for his teaching that which is recognized as true of God’s own teaching. To know Jesus is to be liberated from all error and evil, for it is to know God himself, who is truth and purity and life. In Jesus’ teaching and in the teaching of Judaism obedience to God is true freedom. That makes truth something quite different from today’s mindset; for it takes God, rather than our own personal feelings and ambitions, as the one good. The freedom in view is not a freedom to do whatever we wish according to the dictates of our own fallen selves, but a freedom from our fallen selves and the power and guidance to act in accordance with God himself, the source of all goodness and life.
That’s precisely why God gives us His laws. These ‘restrictions’ are not meant to hurt us but to help us, not meant to deprive us but to protect us. In 1982 Greg Hibbard wrote a letter to the editor in the Muskegon Chronicle which read, “Dear Editor, I would like to tell your readers how mad I was when I was forced to go out and pay $45 for an infant seat, and to top it off we couldn’t fit everybody in my pickup truck with that big bulky thing. On April 2, my wife was forced to go off highway M-120 into a ditch to avoid a collision – that’s 55 MPH to a dead stop. The back of the child car seat was facing the windshield (as I was told the law required for four-month old infants). That seat broke off the ash tray, cracked the dashboard and chipped the windshield. Our baby didn’t have a scratch on her. I would like to thank God and whoever else is responsible for passing that stupid law.” I have a hunch Jesus smiled as he read the letter! Greg now understood that freedom has restrictions. So remember the formula: H + JT + T = F. (Holding to Jesus’ teaching leads to truth which leads to freedom.) Work on your obedience; enjoy your divine restrictions – and be truly free.
Freedom Cloud picture from: aliveagainpositiveliving.com
Law tablets picture from: myjewishlarning.com