They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, "You will be made free'?"
Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father's presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father."
They answered him, "Abraham is our father."
Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does."
They said to him, "We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself."
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God."
- John 8:33-47
Here’s another passage in which Jesus paints a bleak picture of our hope for reunion with God. Once again, he’s saying that it’s God’s action that saves us, not our own. We are slaves to that which keeps us from being in full communion with God. Yet there is still much we can do. One who is drowning can choose not to struggle and kick at the rescuer—even when the rescuer’s intent is to drown with us, thus making every pathway, even death, safe for us.
One of my favorite songs by the Indigo Girls is “Prince of Darkness.” I couldn’t find the studio recording on YouTube, so here’s a live version; the lyrics can be found here.
Hidden toward the end of the song as backup vocals are the lyrics, “By grace, we grow stronger.” We are saved a little bit at a time, keeping us turning, turning, turning back to God. Examples of grace show up in this song: the father giving the daughter money, the mother staying with her for days. These are images of God reaching out to us as we struggle in a broken world of pain, addiction, and violence. I have heard it said that Christians are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world. Yet every one of us sometimes gets swept up in the dramatic appeal of sin.
This is an empowering song. When I am tempted to make a destructive choice, I pray for the grace to notice in advance so I can say, “My place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark/ And I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark … and I will not be a pawn for the Prince of Darkness any longer.” And then I can turn in a new direction.