Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’
Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’
They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.’
Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin.
How often have you made, and kept, a New Year’s resolution? How often have you vowed to give something up for Lent only to find yourself ‘cheating’? How often have you ‘conveniently’ forgotten to keep a promise, or tweaked that promise to your own advantage? How often have you broken some rule, regulation or law having persuaded yourself that your transgression is too minor to matter? How often have you committed a sin because ‘everyone else is doing it’? These soul-searching questions, and the many I have not asked, lie at the heart of the text we are reflecting upon today: … everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin.
We all struggle with sin. Whenever we are confronted with some level of restriction we feel a strong urge to resist. Sometimes the restriction concerns something major. It is obvious why we are told not to commit murder, and most of us manage to resist the temptation to sin in this way. But what about other restrictions that, despite our ability to trivialize them in our own minds, still carry the force of law? A simple example can be seen every single day in our small rural community. A significant road runs through the village, a road with a slower speed limit and a need for caution. The road is crossed by children going to and from their schools, placing an added need to observe the reduced speed limit on all who drive up and down that road. Needless to say, the reduced speed limit is almost universally ignored. The speeds achieved show no remorse for the breaking of the law and no care for the lives that are put at risk.
We sin when we break the laws of the society in which we live, just as we sin when we break God’s law. Breaking the laws of this world endanger the welfare of others; breaking God’s law may do the same, but it also endangers our very souls as we betray our relationship with God.
Slaves have no choice in how they live out their lives, they are required to obey the whims of others. As we become increasingly comfortable with the continuing sins we commit, we give up our freedom to draw closer to God and become slaves to sin.
Let us pray that we might turn from sin and adhere to God’s law, the law that will lead us into eternal life with him.