John 8:31-36

If I were to ask each of you to define freedom, I would get just as many different answers. Some of them may be very similar, while others may be unique to the individual. The dictionary has many different definitions to freedom. The first entry defines freedom as “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”

Quite often when we think of freedom in the United States, we jump to our founding documents of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We have freedom of speech and religion. We have the right to vote and select our leaders. We have certain rights that we have come to expect as American citizens. We have had many groups within this country stand up for these same freedoms and rights from the beginning of this countries founding.

Freedom in another country around the world may look completely different however. The Syrian refugee may just be looking for the freedom to not worry about losing their life. The persecuted Christian in Asia may wish they had the freedom to proclaim the Good News boldly without fear of prison or even death. The silenced women of Iran may wish they had the same freedom as their husbands.

It was in 16th Century Germany that Martin Luther raised his concerns about the freedom a Christian had in the church and the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The grace of God seemed to be overlooked and he raised his belief in the justification of faith. As our Gospel lesson points us to this morning, true freedom can only come to us in Jesus Christ.

In the midst of this, it is hard for us to acknowledge that we are slaves to sin and are held captive by that sin. Even the Judeans, whom Jesus is talking to, seem to have forgot of their own ancestors that were once slaves in Egypt. The concept of being a slave was just as foreign to them as it is to us today. While our own country has had a negative history with slavery, we tend to forget it or gloss over it at times.  We do not know what it is like to be held in physical slavery. Yet, we are slaves nonetheless. Could I go as far to say that we are even possibly slaves to our own misconstrued concept of freedom?

Don’t get me wrong. The physical freedoms that we have in our country are incredible and those freedoms have been fought for and I give thanks for them. However, do we let ourselves get so caught up in the freedoms that are given to us in our rights as citizens, that we forget about our lives as Christians?  The true freedom that we should be seeking as Christians comes to us in Jesus Christ.

We like the truth. We want to know what is right and what is wrong. We seek out the truth to make decisions. As Christians the truth is more than that. The truth comes to us as Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life.  When we come to know the truth that is Jesus Christ, we will experience the freedom that can only come through Christ. That same freedom that Jesus promised to the Judeans in today’s gospel continues to come to us in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, today, tomorrow, and forevermore.

As we enter into a year-long 500th Anniversary observance of the Reformation, we continue to be changed daily in our life with Christ. The reformation of the church was not a one and done event. Through Christ we experience a freedom that changes not only the church on a daily basis, but our own lives as we encounter a freedom that can only be found in Christ. In Christ we have the freedom to give ourselves as a Christ to our neighbor; just as Christ offered himself to us.

That freedom found in Jesus Christ does not make us free to sin. It makes us free from sin. May you continue to be reformed through the living Christ and encounter the truth which sets you free. Free to live a life of love and joy in our Lord Jesus Christ.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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