The Gospel reading can be found
The answer I often hear as to why someone does something wrong, rude, or disrespectful is, “Because I can!” which is, in effect, saying that it’s a free country and I can do what I please, even if its harmful and does violence to oneself or others. But this attitude of freedom, the “because I can” attitude of absolute freedom irrespective of consequence draws into question what TRUE freedom actually looks like.
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.” Of course he receives no shortage of rebuttal by those who claim to be free. They are claiming to already be living in freedom, and the promise of freedom from Jesus seems a bit ridiculous, if not redundant! They call Him on his claim to freedom and then Jesus goes to a whole new level of what freedom REALLY is. Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin…[and] you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.” Jesus is trying to teach them that if their desire is to do what’s wrong, hurtful, harmful, divisive, or death-dealing, then their desire is in itself the greatest indication that they have not accepted the freedom that had been offered to them as children of Abraham, and they are instead obeying and falling into the slavery of their true father, the devil!
The truth is that we are created good. That is who we are at our very core. The tragedy is that we live in a society that encourages us to do evil and harm to others and ourselves. We very often find that we actually WANT to do the unloving thing–even when we have the ability to do otherwise! The good news is that with the help of God’s grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can actually choose to do the good! THAT is what it means to be free, and what we mean when we say that Jesus “set us free.” The Spirit of God that is in us is so much more powerful that the evil in the world, and sometimes even in our heart! We are no longer slaves to sin and death, we have been given God’s Spirit that teaches us to know and do the good for which we were created.
When our Lord died on the cross it seemed at first a great triumph for evil, but the resurrection is evidence that evil does not hold sway over the power of life! Our God is Lord of the living, and death has lost its control over us–if only we would embrace our new life and freedom to love. So, try it sometime! When you feel most like acting in anger that has it’s end in death, choose life instead. Choose a kind word, a loving smile, a gesture of understanding or an extension of friendship. When someone says how much they hate you, tell them how sad you are that they don’t know you well enough to understand and love you, and that you are trying with all your might to understand, know, and love them.
Only then, can we begin to understand Jesus’ actions toward those who persecuted and put Him to death. He forgave them because he loved them–even when they did Him harm. Jesus knew who He was, a loving, forgiving, kind, compassionate person, intimately united to God and missioned to bring wholeness and healing to a broken world. He wasn’t about to allow haters to enslave Him and cause Him to act in a way that was other than who He was. And that’s TRUE freedom! It is the freedom to be our loving selves regardless of others choose to be. Amen?