Jesus said, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31-32)
What is the truth and what does it mean to be free? What holds us in bondage? Frankly it seems to me that we have much freedom in our country. We have a Bill of Rights that even protects it. But is this truly freedom? Don't we still worry about sickness, grieve over the loss of a loved one, and avoid thinking about our own death. Or even more commonly, don't we fret over the burdens of daily life, our daily work routine, our demands our children and parent make of us, our obligations to various organizations including our Church? Don't we look forward to vacation to be free from daily routines? Freedom from an oppressive Government is only as small step towards true freedom. What kind of freedom does Jesus offer?
To be truly free is to be free from fear of death, sickness and the troubles of daily life. But how is this possible? Jesus says this comes "If you continue in My word...then you will know the truth and the truth will make you free." So the freedom we need comes from our faith in Jesus and the truth of His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, His sending of the Holy Spirit, and our participation in His Church.
To become truly free requires our ongoing effort as our condition is not one that is free of anxiety. Saint John Chrysostom says, "Our condition needs much endurance; and endurance is produced when doctrines are deeply rooted ."
This freedom does not come easily and will not be given to us. These teachings we are given thorough His word must be deeply rooted in our hearts and permeate all our actions. Quoting Psalm 119 Saint John says, "do Thou so fix and join in me, as by a nail riveted into me." This is the idea of Theosis, our union with him, like being nailed to Him. This is the work we must be willing to undertake and is the whole aim of the Orthodox way of life.
Saint John also says that this bondage is do to our sins. Our sinfulness is the result of our fears and anxiety. Because of our condition, we tend towards self serving actions and are unable to love others or God. But do we really recognize this as a bondage? Do we see our sins as the chains that restrain our freedom? Do we not seek pleasures thinking that this is the benefit of our personal free will to act for our pleasure? See how we are trapped by our way of life? It's not common to think that the way we are living is sinful and without true freedom. Once we have the true notion of freedom spoken of by Jesus, and see our true sinfulness which St John sees as our bondage, we will not have the motivation or the endurance to gain true freedom available to us though our union with Christ. This is a freedom that involves eternal life, one that transcends our mortality, one based on love where we hold God as our lover and He embraces with His love forever. In His embrace we can endure all things of this life.
So let us reflect on what is "truth." Let us lift our notion of the truth above things of this world. Let us root the doctrines of our faith deep within us and seek ways to nurture these roots so they are ever increasing. Once we find the link between the "truth" that Jesus showed us and our "freedom" He promises, we will be fast approaching our Union with Him.
Ten Points for an Orthodox way of life.