What does it mean to be free? What does it mean to have freedom?
When we invest time to really think about this, it is difficult to positively define freedom. We relent to describing the absences, the things it is not. It is not imprisonment. It is not slavery. It is not bondage. It is not subjugation. But those are like saying peace is the absence of war or light is the absence of darkness. They are accurate but insufficient.
I believe Freedom is the central theme of John 8 and the words of Jesus open our eyes to a glimpse of what it means to be free.
In our first day, we study the story of the trap the Pharisees attempted to force Jesus into with the conundrum of the adulterous woman. It is a trap because they saw no legal way out of the question. In their way of thinking, Jesus must either endorse adherence to the law of the Torah, which would be a violation of the Roman law under which the Jews were ruled in that day. While they had the authority to hold court and had minor enforcement authority, they did not have the authority to put someone to death (something we see when they had to take Jesus to the Roman courts for an execution of the death penalty). The Romans weren’t against killing people. They just didn’t want their subjects taking matters into their own hands. If, however, Jesus enforced the Roman law, then He, defacto, stood against the law of Moses and the scriptures.
But, Jesus was free of their bondage and of sin. He adhered to both laws and turned the situation back to them. The first person to cast a stone would be saying, through their action, they had not sinned. Of course, the very act of throwing the stone was a violation of the law and, thus, a sin. The older men recognized this, and their own sin, first, and walked away. Soon to be followed by all else, leaving only Jesus and the woman.
But Jesus final words to the woman are just as telling about freedom as everything else. Jesus forgives the woman, he says, “then neither do I condemn you.” This brings to mind John 3:17, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Jesus final comment to her is the probably the most important for understanding the freedom Jesus offers. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” While no one else would execute the law to kill the woman, Jesus tells her to do it herself. Not to commit suicide, but to kill the life of sin that she had lived. The freedom of forgiveness is not a fresh coat of paint on the walls of rotted framework. It is transformation. It is tearing out the old and building on a solid foundation. It is not procrastinating. Jesus tells her “NOW”. And it is not staying in the same spot. As a dear friend and amazing woman of God says to the addicts she works with, if you stay in the same playground with the same playmates, you play the same games. To be free, we need to move OUT of the jail. We need to “Go” as Jesus commanded her. Sometimes this is spiritually going, but other times it is a literal, physical, get up and go. Even if the doors are unlocked in forgiveness, continuing to live in a jail cell is not the freedom Jesus has in store for us.
My response often reflects their attitude instead of paying attention to the words of Jesus. If they are combative or obstinate, then my response is to walk away instead of show compassion. If they are seeking answers to the pain and suffering in their life, then I have compassion and paitience.
Be cautious in the condemnation of sinners, since we are all sinners.
Do not mistake forgiveness for acceptance or rationalization of approval of sin – “go now and leave your life of sin”. We should each day put our own sinful life to death and live in the holiness of the spirit of God