To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”” [John 8:31-33 NIV]
That is a question that we need to ask ourselves on this weekend when we celebrate Independence Day. Are we truly free? Are we free to be who God has created us to be?
We live in a country where we celebrate the substantial freedom we have. Yet in our world today, there is a harmful tendency to divide individuals into groups or factions and put labels on them. This somehow makes life simpler. We don’t have to get to know someone individually or personally, but we can just identify them as being of “that type.” How easy is it today to be bound by an identity of what the world would call us?
There are many labels that describe who we are. Married, divorced, single, widowed, young, middle-aged, senior citizens, Democrats, Republicans, conservative, liberal. And some of these labels carry baggage with them that weigh us down and try to restrict and limit our identity.
In this passage in John, Jesus came to tell the Pharisees to proclaim that God wishes to call them by another name that cannot be taken away. It is their identity in which they are truly free. The Pharisees don’t understand Jesus’ claim because they assume they are already free. They are not slaves.
We may be mistaken in the same way. What do you mean, we are not free? We live in the USA. The land of liberty. We are Americans. Christ came to set us truly free and call us His children. This is a title that cannot be taken away—that lasts beyond the other labels, a title that frees us to the truth of who we are. It is a name that sets us free to break through the labels that limit us in who we are and what the world sees us as. Only through this identity, as children of God, can we have true freedom.