The first conscious hint that the church-world I was part of did not believe that Jesus sets people free was back when I was beginning my introduction to the hopelessness of eating disorders. The unified message from church leaders and peers was, “So sorry that poor person is struggling with an eating disorder because now they’re stuck with it for the rest of their lives.”
Okay… so that didn’t sound right. But why did they assume that someone struggling with something that was hopeless from a human standpoint meant it was hopeless for Jesus as well?
Along the way, I learned some very painful lessons about church leaders having no answer to things I was facing in ministry. Even senior-aged pastors responded to my talk about people suffering with memories of childhood sexual abuse, or various expressions of dissociation, with a clear message of non-interest. In fact, their non-interest was to the point that I never heard from them ever again! Sigh.
After some years, I came to a conclusion: virtually every church-going person I ever got to know would reach a point in their lives where they faced something inside them that they would not address because they did not believe Jesus could set them free. They did not believe that their particular issue of sin, or hurt, or dissociation, or coping mechanism, or whatever else they would describe of their hidden world, qualified for any of God’s promises to heal the brokenhearted, bind up their wounds, deliver, save, or help.
Somewhere in there, I made another discovery: this same problem went back to my early years as a child of God! The traumatic things I experienced at home where never discussed. No questions were asked. Even the one night I ran away from home because I couldn’t stand the pain, people who had been out looking for me never asked me later what was wrong. There was simply no message that whatever was going on in my life, or in my heart, Jesus had a way to set me free that was better than running away from pain.
More recently, churches have been publicly communicating that whatever letter of the alphabet people use to describe their sin, the church must welcome them with open arms and make them feel right at home doing what they are doing. The church is apparently supposed to accept such people in love because they can’t help themselves and... well, you guessed it… Jesus no longer sets people free.
Where do I stand in this?
Answer: the same place I began standing when I first heard about eating disorders and childhood sexual abuse. Jesus sets people free.
No matter which letter of the alphabet people use to describe their eating addiction (A for Anorexia, B for Bulimia, C for Compulsive Over-eating, D for Denial), the underlying worthlessness and hopelessness have the same cure: Jesus sets people free.
What about all the other letters of the alphabet people use to describe their hopeless sin problems?
Same answer: Jesus sets people free.
God’s promises in this regard are written like this:
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
God describes himself like this so we will know his good intentions towards us:
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
This prophecy 700 years before Jesus’ lived among us was fulfilled in Jesus’ life and ministry:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed meto bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
Jesus described the fulfillment of this prophetic promise like this:
And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Which is why Jesus continues to present this invitation to people today as he did twenty centuries ago:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
This is not an exhaustive list of the promises of God for our freedom. It is a summary of why I reject all the negative messages regarding Jesus’ inability to set people free. God’s word says he will still do these things for all who relate to him in faith; I have seen him do so as often as people have trusted him and followed where he was leading, and I will present Jesus as the hope of the nations until the day I die.
I’m sure we could write an ABC book that listed the sins associated with every letter of the alphabet. It would not matter whether we used ancient or contemporary terms to describe either our broken condition or the sins we express, the message would be the same: Jesus sets people free.
For a long time, I have lived by the aim: “Leading people to freedom in Christ so they can experience God in a real and personal way.” I have not heard of any area of bondage or oppression that contradicts this hope. God has given us too many promises for us to miss out on what he would do even now if we turned to him with all our hearts and souls.
Oh yes, that reminds me of another promise:
“But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Let me know if you need help.
© 2018 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ email@example.com
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)