February 7, 2018
“You Must Not” or “You Are Free Not To”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:34–36
Chapter eight of John’s Gospel begins with men condemning a woman caught in the act of adultery. “She must not do such a thing,” they yelled. The law declares her deserving of death. After Jesus has them realize that since none of her accusers are without sin, none can condemn her. He then forgives her, setting her free from her sin and setting her on a new path. I doubt that she lived a sin-free life from then on. None of us do. But she lived a life of freedom from sin’s total control. She knew she had choices enabled by grace.
Whether our sin deserves public punishment or is some continuous impulse that robs us of joy and peace, it is by nature enslaving. As a house slave had no authority or power to free himself in the ancient world, so we have no power to break the bondage of our sin. Repeating the prohibition to yourself, “I must not do that again” only makes the struggle more difficult.
While the slave could not free himself, the son of the house could. He would inherit the slave bought by his father and would have authority to free the slave. The Son to whom Jesus refers is himself. By the blood of atonement He shed on the cross, all who will accept His gift of forgiveness He frees from the punishment and penalty of sin. He gives His Spirit not only to confirm that forgiveness, but also to empower and free us to live in that grace.
So next time you are tempted by a sin, instead of saying to yourself with the grimace of self-determination, “I must not”, say “I am free not to”. Grace is more powerful than law. It turns to God and his love for strength, not to ourselves who have already proven to be weak.
The Son has set you free. You are free indeed.
The grace of God be with you, in Christ.