There is a Fine Line Between Bondage and Freedom.

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artwork by me

There is a story in the Bible I’ve only recently learned to appreciate, but one I think is often overlooked. It’s not your typical David and Goliath or Noah’s Ark story, but a good one nonetheless. It’s a small story, only making up about 9 verses in the 5th book of John, so it makes since that its not very well known. The story itself is about a sick man and his mat and every day for many years he sits near a pool called Bethesda. What is interesting about the pool of Bathesda is during the time it was believed that the water had healing powers to the first person to enter it when it was stirred up by God. Although the Bible does not specifically label the sick man as homeless or even a beggar, many smart “bible-people” seem to agree he was probably both. Because this pool was known for its healing powers many of the sick, lame and disease ridden could be seen at the pool during all parts of the day or night waiting for the waters to be stirred. The Bible says that this particular man could not walk and that he had been there every day for thirty-eight years! Without the ability to walk and the capabilities to work, begging and asking for money was no doubt how this man made his living. One day Jesus comes up to the man by the pool and asks, “Do you wish to be well?” to which the man answers Jesus something to the effect of, “Well I would, but you see I have no one to place me into the water and every time I get close, someone gets in before me.” What’s particularly peculiar about this situation is not only does it seem to be a very odd question for Jesus to ask (because you would think the answer would be quite obvious) but also it seems the man is giving Jesus a whopper of an excuse. Granted I know the man couldn’t walk, but Jesus knew exactly how long the man had been there and doesn’t ask him why he’s not well yet, he simply asks him, do you want to be well? You could find plenty of biblical commentary on this I’m sure, but I like to think what Jesus is really asking the man (and us) is, do you really want to change? I think he is saying that if we truly desire be well, there will be change and it will be costly. For this man, being healed meant no more begging. It meant no more comfortable mat. Being free from the bondage of his disease meant everything about his life would change. It meant he would need to find a new line of work and probably some new friends. He would be free but at the same time he would have to learn to adapt to a completely new lifestyle. Jesus was asking if he was really ready to be free from his life that had held him back for so long?

Although it may seem strange, this was the perfect question Jesus could have asked him. I wasn’t there, but I can only imagine this question rocked the man to his core. When you think about it, thirty-eight years is a very long time and thirty-eight years of the same thing day-in and day-out, I can only imagine this man had just given up hope on changing, and probably without realizing it, he allowed himself to get a little too comfortable with who and where he was in life. I think in thirty eight years he lost the interest to be better. Wouldn’t you? If I’m honest with myself, I feel sometimes that I am no different from the man in the story. I like to think I genuinely want to be a better person. I think we all do to some extent. I want to treat people better than I do. I want to change some of the bad habits that I have. I want to get less frustrated in traffic and less annoyed at people whom I think are incompetent. I want to be the guy who does the right thing every time, even when it’s hard. The truth is, I have a tendency to get complacent and a little too comfortable with who I am and the current condition of my character to the point where I just don’t do anything about it. If the development of my character is important to me, which it should be, then I should be a little more proactive in my attempts to be better. Why? Because My character essentially is me. But the truth is, I’m not always in the mood or frame of mind to put in the work to really try to fix the character qualities I’m not so good at. And I’m certainly not always super eager to ask for help either. As a result of my complacency and without a community of people to encourage me to be better, I only get worse. Like a vehicle on an incline – if I’m not being intentional about moving forward, I will only begin to slowly slide backwards.

I’m learning that freedom from the addiction of myself (selfishness) is possible. Addiction from anything is possible. It’s possible to be free from the things that keep us down and hold us back from becoming the best versions of ourselves we can be. We all want to be better, but wanting to be better is not enough. I’m learning there is a very thin line between bondage and freedom and knowing that line starts with believing that change is actually possible! Because it is!

At the end of the story Jesus tells the man to stand up and walk. And he does!

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4 thoughts on “There is a Fine Line Between Bondage and Freedom.

  1. Great words, Chris. I think we all need this encouraging reminder. But we should not treat this like any old reminder. Actually take it to heart and act upon it. Changing who we are is an extremely difficult task, and you’re absolutely right, it first takes the willingness to get out of your comfort zone, the humility to ask God to bring change into your life, and the diligence to act and hold yourself to that better standard you’ve laid out. I plan to meditate on this seemingly small but signifcant story about Jesus and the sick man at the pool and determine what I can work on changing in my life. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Great writing! I can relate to this as I am getting sick of my current life and have many changes that I would like to happen, but won’t until I do something about them. I should take some time and reflect on these words and ask God to show me what I need to do to make changes happen. Thank you for writing this and God Bless.

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