About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Slaves In The Land Of The Free


In 1959 I was 8 years old.  With my windup plastic machine gun in hand, I rounded 3 corners, walked up a hill, passed by a house that supposedly had a bomb shelter in its back yard, turned another corner, and entered the war zone.  I felt a bit embarrassed about my plastic machine gun.  Other boys had air riffles. They looked and sounded very real, way too real for my dad's liking.  So, every recess, in the back of the school yard, I joined the fight against communism with my dad's weapon of choice.  Maintaining the freedom our parents so valiantly fought for in World War 2 seemed to be worth the embarrassment.   


In 1961 the Berlin Wall was erected to divide Germany into east and west.  In the minds of the western world, the wall symbolized Soviet style communist oppression, the very oppression I attempted to fend off with my plastic machine gun.  It was a big task for a little boy.  


Anyone who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's, as I did, remembers, the "cold war".  It wasn't an all out war.  It was a frigid chill between east and west, especially between the Soviets and the Americans.  We were worried that the chill would melt down into an explosive nuclear disaster.  Things intensified by the late 1970's and early 1980's with the introduction of Star Wars technology, American short range missiles in Europe, Soviet aggression, and failed peace talks.   


It was June 12, 1987.  Berlin was celebrating its 750th birthday.  While standing at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin , my favorite U. S. president, President Ronald Reagan, spoke 5 words that would define his legacy.  Challenging Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan raised his voice and shouted, "Gorbachev, tear down this wall".  No one could have imagined how prophetic Reagan's words would prove to be.  On November 9, 1989, the wall fell, giving rise to the hope that Soviet style communism would fall along with the wall.  Could the west now relax?  Could the east now be free?  What really is freedom anyway?    


Jesus made a statement about freedom that would partly define His legacy as well.  "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free". (John 8:32) For years Christians and non-Christians alike have echoed these words with little understanding of their true meaning.   


Jesus spoke these words to Jews who had known very little freedom throughout their history.  Upon hearing these words the Jews arrogantly proclaimed, "We are Abraham's descendents and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say that we shall be set free"?  Jesus must have been dumbfounded by the stupidity of their response.  Jews were seldom free from the domination of others, and at that precise moment, they were subject to Rome.  Jesus simply answered by saying, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin". 


The two important words here are the words "truth" and "free".  In verse 31 Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching then you will know the truth "  What Jesus taught is ultimate truth.  In verse 34 Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin".  Being free means to be free from sin, not from Rome, as the Jews thought Jesus meant.      


"You will know the truth and the truth will set you free" means that when you know and implement the truth of what Jesus taught, you will be free from the slavery of sin and its consequences.  The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union could never produce this kind of freedom, neither on an individual level or a national level.  This is a different kind of freedom, but a freedom that is essential to the peace and security of any nation.   


I live a few houses down from the war zone, the school yard where my friends and I fought for freedom.  Like a prison, the school is fenced in, gated, and locked up tight.  Only authorized individuals can enter, and then only after the secretary remotely unlocks the front door.  This is the very school yard where my friends and I struggled against oppression.  Is this the freedom we fought for?    


My neighbour discovered he had been under surveillance.  Someone overheard him and his friend planning a terrorist attack while sipping coffee in a coffee shop, or so they thought.  When the undercover agent learned that the attack being planned was on an online war game, the case was closed.  Is this spirit of suspicion the freedom a generation fought and died for? 


The implementation of the Boston bombers plans were immortalized on various security video cameras.  As useful as these cameras are, prior to 911, many of us thought they were an invasion of personal privacy.  Have we freely given up some freedom to secure freedom? 


When you're patted down or stripped searched at the airport, is this the freedom you anticipated when the wall fell?  When Americans are being pressured to relinquish certain constitutional rights, is this the freedom their nation was founded upon?  Is America still the land of the brave and free?  Is the west really free?  


From a Biblical perspective, it's easy to figure out.  When the national consensus rejects the truth of Jesus' teaching, the nation doesn't know the truth that sets it free from sin and its consequences.  When you lay aside "thou shall not kill", you will kill, and, when you kill, legislative measures will be enforced to maintain freedom, and in this case, freedom from murderers.  This is the problem.  These legislative measures infringe on the very freedom they are meant to preserve.  The more of these measures we enact, the less free we are.  We become slaves to the very measures that are meant to keep us free.   We become slaves in the land of the so-called free. 


As important as security cameras and all the rest now are, they're a product of the sin we could be set free from.  If the national consensus of a nation could embrace the truth of Jesus' teaching, those in that nation would not only be free from sin, but free from the legislative measures that enslaves them. 


"If you hold to my teaching then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free". (John 8:31-32) 






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