Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
This is a very difficult passage. When I was praying John’s Gospel in sequence a few years ago, I don’t recall this chapter 8 being the source of much insight. It seemed to be a very adversarial portion of the Gospel. Note that Jesus is addressing people who “believed in him.” These were his own. These were people who were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But they struggle with Jesus who presents them with some challenging possibilities.
I can see myself and perhaps others insisting, “We are Christians. We have followed you!” And what to do when we hear the Lord’s response that we are slaves to sin when we commit sin? Sure, we acknowledge our sins. Sometimes. And we confess them. Sometimes. But sometimes we get stuck. And then what?
I feel sure this passage was included in the Reconciliation Lectionary because it invites believers not just to believe. But to be disciples, and to truly turn our lives over to Jesus. Freedom in Christ is a lasting experience. That last verse gives us a good mantra:
If the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
And it is up to each penitent to believe it, live it, and be free. That mantra would be excellent for many an individual penitent to bear in mind. Especially those burdened by over-active guilt and doubt.