Jesus’ words in John 8 have been oft quoted and applied by the secular world around us. Pick a Sit-Com, and inevitably you will find that at some point in the series there was an episode about deceit, struggling to keep a secret, or a mystery, and it is almost required that someone utter the phrase “The truth shall set you free.”
Here are some other secular uses you might find interesting:
- “And Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free” is carved in stone in the OHB (Original Headquarters Building) of the Central Intelligence Agency
- There is a website called truthsetsusfree.com whose motto is “Dedicated to liberating Americans through education!” From what I could tell it was advocating limited government and delved into some conspiracy theories including the existence of extraterrestrial life.
- President James Garfield once said, “”The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”
It’s a phrase we come across all the time in our culture today, but never with the meaning that Jesus intended.
When our culture uses the phrase it usually entails the feeling of relief that is felt when the truth is discovered—either because we solved the mystery, or because we no longer have to keep a secret, or because we can deal with our guilt out in the open.
In fact, I think if you were to take a poll (even including Christians) and ask people what “The truth shall set you free” means, I would think the majority would give an answer related to guilt and relief, secrecy and honesty.
We also use the phrase to encourage the pursuit of knowledge. The CIA nuances this usage by suggesting that their pursuit of information is vital to the freedoms we enjoy in
What Jesus Meant:
Jesus’ point was much different. The “truth” Jesus was referring to was the Truth of His Word.
To be “set free” is to be released from the bondage of sin and to be empowered to live a life according to the Truth, namely Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The freedom is the freedom to experience the blessing that living a godly life brings while avoiding the oppressiveness of sinful living.