But First It Will Make You Mad
” . . . the truth shall make you free.” – John 8:32
“The Truth Shall Make You Free.” These words from the Gospel of John show up in lots of places. On the pediments of college buildings, on university seals, and above library entrances.
When you read them in context (John 8: 31 – 40), it appears that the quotation on buildings and seals omits something important — namely, that before the truth will make you free, there’s a pretty good chance it will make you mad.
At least that is what happens in John 8. Jesus told people that his word would free them. They took offense, saying (my paraphrase) “Who the heck does this guy think he is? Claiming he will free us! We don’t have a problem; it’s those other people who have the problem. My family has belonged to this church for five generations!”
It sounds a lot like someone who is confronted with an addiction, but denies that they have any problem. Like,”What are you talking about, I don’t have an alcohol problem — you’re the one who has the problem.”
Before the truth frees us, there’s a good chance it will make us mad. Because the truth is, among other things, that we too have some issues to face, some stuff to deal with. The truth is that we are sinners in need of grace, captives in need of liberation.
We imagine that we have arrived, that we are the smart, the strong, the good and the successful. But face to face with Jesus, we find that maybe we have made a little too much of ourselves. We are imprisoned by our self-image, by our complacency, our arrogance. The truth that frees is that we are sinners in desperate need of grace. The good news is that grace is available in Christ Jesus. That’s the truth that frees (after it makes us mad).
When I am irritated or disturbed or angry, grant me grace, O God, to take a good look at myself. Amen.
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Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.