Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 8:31-41; 2 Peter 2:10-16; Song of Solomon 8; Lamentations 2
Jesus here delivers one of his better-known aphorisms: truth will set you free. This statement appears in many religious and secular settings, especially in relation to the importance of accurate knowledge. Truthfulness in belief is important, but in its original setting, Jesus linked truth to belief and behaviour. Living ethically is about believing the truth, behaving correctly and becoming the right kind of person. It is not just a matter of knowing the truth and being set free from constraints.
The freedom that Jesus discusses is that from slavery to sin. Jesus’ listeners reacted that they had never been slaves of anyone. It’s not that they had forgotten their history of slavery inEgypt, or even their current enslavement byRome. The audience reflected a viewpoint at the time that in spite of being subject to foreign rulers, they were still free in spirit. Jesus picks up on this idea and challenges them. They had forgotten that their political enslavement arose because of their enslavement to sin. Passages like Lamentations 2 recount the destruction and humiliation visited upon the Jews arising ultimately from their sin. Even their own prophets gave false and worthless visions which misled the people because by not exposing their sin (v. 14). In spite of claiming to be free, their slavery to sin landed them in trouble over and over. They needed deliverance from that slavery, but didn’t even recognise the bondage they were under.
We must be careful in quickly dismissing these people are completely different to us. The people reacting to Jesus believing their were religious, defending their faith from new ideas. We also read in 2 Peter 2 about the appalling sinfulness that can develop in people. Yet Peter mentions that those who did such terrible things had left the straight way (v. 15). They had known some aspect of the truth, and turned their back on it, to pursue a life of greed and wickedness.
Today, we are told that every way of living is open to our free choice. The biggest sin appears to be restricting someone’s freedom. I have heard academics claim that it is violence for one person to tell others that what they are doing is wrong. Some insist that it is wrong to tell others they are wrong, in spite of the obvious contraction this statement contains. The issue is not just one of logic, but about heart commitments. We are all committed to a certain way of life. One is a commitment to freedom that leads to enslavement to sin. The way of Jesus is a commitment to truth, and that leads to real freedom.