What is freedom, and what is bondage? Many Christians try to have it both ways. They want the freedom of living their own lives, inviting God’s presence on their terms, but never entering into the life of liberty in the Spirit that God intends for them. Undeniably lukewarm, they possess the worst of both worlds. They neither live in horrible, outward sin nor in the wedded bliss of the first love. Since they love their lives in this world, they will not abandon their lives to Jesus. Therefore, they do not really get to enjoy the pleasures of sin nor the glorious, overcoming life in the Spirit. Instead, they live in a dismal, gray world which exists between the two extremes – all under the nice sounding title of “being balanced.” The reality is they live in a spiritual ghetto.
~ Steve Gallagher, “Living in Victory” (pg. 150)
For a long time I lived in the spiritual ghetto described above. I became convinced that I had a “shadow side” which was simply part of my make-up. So convinced was I of this that I insisted others must learn to either love me “as is” or get out of my life. I once even told my own mother to never speak to me again because she was “toxic to my recovery” as an addict. What was so toxic? Her telling me that I was in bondage to sin, not sex, and freedom could be found in Christ.
When you are an addict – to what or whomever – the promise of freedom can sound like a cruel joke. When one is so wrapped up in a sinful pattern, as I was, it is nearly impossible to hear truth as something liberating rather than infuriating.
There is a beautiful story John tells in his gospel of Jesus coming upon an invalid of 38 years. Jesus asks this man what might at first seem to be a curious question:
Do you want to be healed? (John 5:6)
Do you want to be healed? What a glorious question! And how equally terrifying! An outsider might find this a curious question, but the one bent over from sin for decades knows it’s import. We know this question is not always met with a resounding YES! welling up from the depths of a broken, needy heart. We know that there is a huge part of ourselves that loves darkness more than light, that cherishes our sin like Gollum clinging to his Precious, that doesn’t want to face the responsibility that true freedom would entail. Yes, it’s a pig sty, but it’s my pig sty, we cry.
I have a hunch that Jesus learned to ask this question early on in his ministry after encountering far too many people who refused to be made well. They refused the freedom offered them because they did not believe it possible to achieve.
Do you want to be healed?
The question still lingers for each of us today whether you be an invalid, an addict, an impatient spouse, an uninvolved parent, a greedy employer or a prideful pastor.
Jesus does not ask a question of us that he is not fit to deliver upon. When he asks, he asks in hopes that perhaps this time you have had enough with living in a spiritual ghetto and would like to taste and see that the Lord is good. He would love to introduce you to a life of freedom where his exhortation to “go and sin no more” no longer sounds like a cruel joke but an invitation to a life you never dreamed possible…until this very moment.
Do you want to be healed?