The phrase “the truth will set you free” has so worked its way into our collective consciousness that it can be applied to any number of scenarios. Psychoanalyst Anne Miller has written a book titled “The Truth Will Set You Free” about facing and overcoming early psychological traumas. Artist Owen Maseko opened an exhibition this year about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe called “The Truth Will Set You Free.” On August 10, 2009, the New Health Dialogue Blog used “The Truth Will Set You Free” in the title of a blog entry about President Obama’s health care reform initiative. But how many people know the origin of this adage?
Like many of today’s common phrases, it originally appeared in the Bible. This particular aphorism comes from a saying of Jesus in the gospel of John. Chapter 8, verses 31 and 32 read as follows:
"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.'"
Nowadays people will use this common phrase and imply that the “truth” it refers to is whatever agenda they are seeking to advance at the time. In reality, the “truth” it is speaking of is the message of Jesus – the gospel of salvation. Christ taught that we are all slaves to sin. We love sin so much that we cannot possibly lay it down of our own accord. Many people believe that Christianity actually enslaves, not frees people. But that is because they do not see sin as something to be avoided.
Think of a drug addict who is offered the opportunity to enter into a 30 day residential rehab program. If they do not want to escape their addiction, they will resist entering the program with every fiber of their being. Why would they want to undertake something that will restrict their “freedom” to use drugs to their heart’s content. But if they see their addiction as a set of shackles that is tying them down from which they desperately want to escape, all of a sudden that rehab program looks like a ticket to freedom.
The gospel is no different. Salvation through Jesus Christ frees us from our addiction to sin. That doesn’t mean we will never sin, but we will recognize sin for what it is, loathe it, and live our lives as recovering sinners, just as a recovering alcoholic is never “cured,” but always on the alert to avoid temptation. But one thing we are completely free from is the judgment against our sin by God. When the Father looks upon us in judgment at the end of days, He will see Jesus’ perfection rather than our imperfection for anyone who has accepted Christ as his or her Lord and Savior.
This weekend Americans will celebrate their Independence Day. We rejoice in the freedoms we enjoy, hopefully cognizant of others in the world who are not so fortunate and honoring those who have sacrificed to give us this opportunity. When American Christians remember our secular freedoms on Sunday, I encourage you to also remember the freedom you have in Christ Jesus. Our country has set us free. Let us be glad of that. But the truth of Jesus Christ has given us far greater freedom than anything we could be granted by human authority. Honor your country, your leaders, and those in military service. Worship the Lord your God.