Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
~ John 8:34-36
Last week Donna and I spent an evening with my son, Phil, and his fiance, Sarah, at the home of Sarah’s parents, Mike and Susan. Phil and Sarah’s one year old basset hound, Dennis, was also there. They do not like to leave Denny home alone, nor does Denny like to be alone. He’s a very personable dog and, even though he is full grown, Denny is still full of playful puppy energy.
At one point it the evening, Sarah was showing us a large decorative bird cage she had purchased for their upcoming wedding reception. When Denny saw the bird cage, he shrunk back in obvious fear, barking wildly as if to say “Get that thing away from me!” Sarah commented that Denny had acted that way before, and she was curious about his behavior. As we talked about it, I asked Phil if Dennis was living in a cage when Phil first saw him and subsequently purchased him at the pet store. Phil nodded and said that, indeed, Denny had spent a significant amount of time in a cage during his first weeks of life. We all realized that Dennis was letting us all know that the bird cage reminded him of a life to which he did not want to return.
A few minutes later, I went downstairs to spend some time with Mike in their family room. Denny followed me down the steps and went off snooping somewhere else in the house. As Mike and I were discussing the recent Super Bowl game, Denny came bounding into the family room with his huge ears flopping and his tail wagging. He immediately spun around and ran out of the room, through the kitchen, into the dining room, and around the corner into the living room, barking the entire time. Because the open living space in the house forms a continuous loop into the kitchen, Denny was soon back in the family room and the entire scene repeated again…several times. He was not chasing anything nor did he have anything in his mouth. Denny was just enjoying being alive, loving his liberty, and rejoicing in the fact that he now lives with family who loves him and takes good care of him.
I know it is easy to project our human awareness and motivations onto the animals we love, and I have no way to prove that Dennis was comparing his earlier living status in a cage to his new life as a dog who is now “free indeed.” But the moment was very heartwarming and instructive to me. As sons and daughters of Adam, we are all born into sin, “slaves to sin” as spoken by Jesus in the quote above. We are caged as helpless captives to our status as sinners, suffering each day due to the consequences of our own transgressions. Most humans live with conscious and unconscious feelings of guilt that no amount of happy thinking, chemical dependency, or good deeds can erase. We are slaves to sin.
But, thank God, we can be set free from the horrible consequences of sin. The wonderful truth is that Jesus has redeemed us from that miserable life in the “cage,” and he has offered a life of liberty to all who are willing to let Him be their master. As I found delight in watching Dennis rejoice during his 5 minute long romp throughout the house, I realized that our heavenly Father also delights in us when we express our deep and heartfelt gratitude to Him for the liberty He has given to us as His adopted children. Because the Son has set us free, we are free indeed!