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September 2007

Jesus' gift of freedom

John Lobell sent me these reflections inspired by my sharing this past Sunday in which I talked about a number of options available to us when we come into confrontation with a passage in scripture which seems "wrong" to us.


My story is from pretty early on in my daily Examens. For over forty years I’ve been bugged by the story in Mark 11:12-14 and 19-23. Jesus curses and kills a fig tree because he was hungry and the tree had no fruit. But the text explains that it was not the season for fig trees to have fruit! There is no way I can accept that this mean-spirited, petulant act was really done by Jesus. I have never found a commentary that even acknowledges the stunning implication of that passage, much less defends and makes sense of it, and I have really searched!

So in my new enthusiasm of finally having an intimate relationship with Jesus himself, I asked him about it. His reply was, “John, I didn’t write that. It was written about me. You’ll have to go to the author for his explanation.”

In spite of my disappointment, I had to laugh. For me, that was my first experience of Jesus offering me more freedom than I’d previously considered.

I’m deeply aware that Jesus’ part of my conversation with him is, of necessity, filtered through my psyche. I know of no way around that fact. But the overwhelmingly positive effect these conversations continue to have on me – my awareness of Jesus working changes in me and my attitudes and behavior – and a consequent joy that I can in no way produce for myself – give me confidence that what does come through my filters is reliable. Jesus frequently refuses to make decisions for me when I ask him to; he reminds me of my responsibility for my acts, and he will not violate my freedom of will. There are times when I feel this is unfair, but he stays firm. He loves and supports me in my freedom, and forgives me when I confess an error. I continue to find his loving friendship essential to my life, even when he won’t take my responsibility away from me. The combination of holding me responsible, and forgiving my-sometimes-sinful responses, is the source of my joy.