“Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:34–36.
As we pass the 242nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, I am prompted to reflect on what it means to be free. Our country has been called the land of the free and the home of the brave. And that dream has been immortalized in songs, poems, books and movies. But what does freedom mean? Lots of people associate freedom with the ability to do whatever you want. Live for yourself, do as you please, look out for number 1. However, this is disturbingly close to the freedom desired by a two-year-old when he says “you're not the boss of me.” This version of freedom, if allowed to rule, produces anarchy with every man's freedom fighting against every other man. Sometimes a group of people with this mentality will band together as a mob. The problem is that these are actually forms of what the Bible calls slavery. Slavery to sin. People who can't see beyond themselves, people at the mercy of their feelings and impulses, slaves to our own desires even when they destroy us.
2000 years ago Jesus arrived on this earth to make a different Declaration of Independence; a declaration of true freedom, freedom from having our lives ruled by our sinful desires. Freedom to know peace and joy regardless of our circumstances. Freedom to have a living connection with Godthat is constantly growing and producing beautiful fruit. The freedom of knowing that we are never alone even when everything seems dark. This is why Jesus says "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Jesus gives us the invitation to come to Him if we are weary of the counterfeit freedoms the world has to offer. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30). This kind of freedom is open, not to a few, but to everyone who feels like they're laboring under heavy burdens. His invitation to freedom and rest has an odd ring to it. "Take My yoke upon you”? That sounds more like work, an allusion to oxen pulling a plow. And yet that is the paradox, Jesus says it is easy and light. You see the problem is everyone has a yoke whether we like it or not. This yoke always weighs on us. Our own yokes we pull alone. Jesus is inviting us to realize what life is like when He is pulling along with us. He says My yoke.
What He asks of us He accomplishes in us. When I was a kid we enjoyed playing tug-of-war. You get kids on either end of a rope and you pull and try to get the other team across the middle line. If the weight and strength of the teams is even the tug can go on for a really long time. However if someone much stronger, say a much bigger kid or an adult, joins one side of the line, all of a sudden everyone on the opposing team is completely helpless against the force pulling them across the line.
That is Jesus invitation: ”join My line.” The beauty and freedom of that invitation is that as long as we are pulling on His side victory is guaranteed because He always wins. This weekend as we are contemplating our national independence and freedom from a foreign ruler let us declare spiritual independence from the rulers of this world and experience the freedom and joy that come from Jesus.