So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17
“Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, ‘If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.'” (John 8: 31-36)
There are two aphorisms that we all know well by our experience. The first is, “The truth hurts.” Each, and every one of us, knows this reality. We know it because we have seen how others who are caught by the truth either cower from it and try to hide. How even in the face of the truth, they defy it and fight it out of foolish pride.
Here we can look at the second aphorism, the one we see in the passage from John’s Gospel quoted above: “The truth shall set you free.” We have seen those who encounter the truth about themselves or what they have been doing, who finally see how their ignorance has held them back, or caused them to be a ‘slave to sin.’ How that slavery has made them guilty of injustices of all kinds against innocent others, and how they have fallen to their knees in true tears of contrition.
It is true, too, that we have experienced this sudden insight within the depths of our own hearts. We, too, have experienced the lightness of the freedom of forgiveness wash over us, like cleansing waters, when we have turned our hearts away from sin and set our eyes on the truth of God once again.
We are about to enter the holiest week of the Christian tradition, Easter week. The whole meaning of Jesus’ ministry is tied up in the events that we will remember during this week. Though we were drowning in the swamp of sin, Jesus came to tell us how much we are loved. More importantly, he came to show us the true depths of God’s love for his children. The truth that sets us free is the Person of Jesus. The world thought it could defeat that truth and remain in sin by condemning Jesus to die on the Cross. But, oh, how the world discovered how powerless it is, when that Truth rose again on the third day.
The truth is that the wage of sin is death. When we finally “see” our own slavery to sin, this truth hurts. The truth that sets us free is that Jesus’ death on the Cross paid the price for all of our sins and conquered death forever. The truth that sets us free is that the love the Father has for us, the true love that He showed us in the flesh of our human experience in Jesus, has set us free forever. The Son, the One who always remains, has made us truly free. How wise it would be, then, to accept this truth and to live out of it in our daily lives.
Before each of us, then, is a clear choice: a life lived in slavery to sin, or a life lived out of the freedom that comes from submitting willingly to the truth of God’s love. Which do we choose?
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