“So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through”
(John 8:36, The Message).
If you have ever been to a circus, one of the things you will notice is that great big elephants are being held captive by a little chain around one of their ankles connected to a post. It is amazing to think that such a little chain, connected to such a little post, could restrain such an enormous animal. An elephant could simply take a swipe at the chain and either break the chain or pull up the post.
But circus elephants don’t just break chains and uproot posts. When they were babies, their trainers taught them that when they felt the chain, they were supposed to submit. Thus, baby circus elephants never receive an opportunity to experience their true greatness, their true identity.
Like circus elephants, we are restrained by so many things in life that prevent us from experiencing true greatness, our true identity. We hear about the power we have through our Creator, but a little chain holds us down. Why is that?
A few weeks ago we celebrated Pentecost, a celebration of God's Spirit being poured out on all people. God's Spirit is associated with power. There is no power on earth that is greater than the power of the Holy Spirit. To be quite frank, no one can live a truly victorious life except with the help that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. To convey the meaning and significance of the “Spirit-filled” life, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, used the phrase “holy and whole.”
Becoming holy and whole is what happens when we follow Christ. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is the holy and whole life that is the Spirit-filled life. Holiness is both personal and social: personal as it relates to our relationship with Christ and social in relations to our work with the poor, the powerless and the marginalized.
In thinking about the process of becoming holy and whole, I am reminded of the story of the farmer who moved to a big city. The first time he saw a mall he was with his son and his wife. He said with enthusiasm, “I’ve got to see this place. I’ve never seen anything like it!” As the farmer and his family were wandering around the mall, they came across a bank which had a large vault inside.
They didn’t quite know what a “vault” was because the farmer was used to saving his money by hiding it under a mattress or burying it in the backyard. As they were trying to figure out what the vault was, an old lady entered the bank. Slowly and with the help of her walker, the old lady approached the vault and went inside. Seconds later, a beautiful young woman strolled confidently from the vault.
From the farmer’s perspective, he saw an old lady goes in, and a gorgeous young woman comes out! He leaned over to his son and said, “Hurry up, go get your mother.” He wanted an instant transformation for his wife.
Just as the farmer’s wife would not have been immediately transformed, nor will we be immediately transformed through our “Spirit-filled” life. Holiness and wholeness do not happen instantaneously; however, we do have control over the pace at which the process takes place. We speed up or slow down the process depending upon our willingness to become more like Christ.
According to the Scripture, "like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness, then you’ll grow up mature and whole in Christ" (1 Peter 2:2). When we grow in Christ, we allow the Holy Spirit to break the chains that hold us captive then we are free to experience our true greatness, our God-given identity.