January 1, 1863.
Does this date mean something to you? If you are an American history buff, then you immediately recognize this as the date President Abraham Lincoln issued his famous “Emancipation Proclamation” freeing many slaves. However, it wasn’t until December 18, 1865 that the Constitution made Lincoln’s convictions official. And though he was dead by then, Lincoln’s dream became reality.
Word of this spread like wildfire, with newspaper headlines in virtually every state declaring the message: Slavery Legally Abolished.
But something unexpected happened – something no one could have predicted. The vast majority of slaves – though legally free – continued to live as slaves, going on with their lives as if nothing had changed. Shelby Foote confirms this phenomenon in his three-volume work on The Civil War, stating:
…every slave could repeat with equal validity, what Alabama slave had said in 1864 when asked what he thought of the Great Emancipator whose proclamation went into effect that year. “I don’t know nothing bout Abraham Lincoln,” he replied, “cep they say he sot us free. And I don’t know nothing bout that neither.”
How tragic. A long and bloody battle had been fought, a president had been assassinated, and an amendment to the Constitution had been signed into law. But slaves went on living as slaves.
An even greater tragedy than this exists: Christians – set free by the Great Emancipator, Jesus Christ – continuing to live as slaves to sin. You can bet that our slave master, Satan, is very pleased by this phenomenon.
If you find yourself in need of a reminder that you are free, let Romans 6 seep into your soul and consider it your Emancipation Proclamation from God Himself.
..now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:22-23