So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. (Exodus 13:3)
Relate: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
The year was 1865. The date… today. January 31. After weeks of backroom bargaining, calling in favors, and other wheeling and dealing that was all beautifully conveyed in a recent blockbuster hit, Lincoln finally managed congress to pass this thirteenth amendment to the Constitution. On this day, after decades of oppression and years of war, the slave was made free.
Of course it did not end there. They might technically be free, but they certainly were not considered equal. Not by most. Technically, the fourteenth amendment passed three years later guaranteed equal privileges and protection to everyone in the US.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Since that didn’t seem clear enough in 1870 the right to vote was guaranteed to everybody… at least it should have. Women had to wait another fifty years to get it. It took still 40 more years for DC residents to get the right to vote and four more after that before the poll tax was abolished and the truly poor could join in the process.
All that is just the right to vote. Despite many setbacks and often violent fear and paranoia emanating who fought against freedom and equality, the saints kept marching on. The list of heroes includes far too many names but ones like Susan B Anthony, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Eugene Debs, WEB Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, Jackie Robinson, and even some in our time like Mother Theresa and Desmond Tutu are deserving of our gratitude. There have been many setbacks along the way, there have been struggles and moments when some wanted to just throw in the towel and give up the fight. But the march of history here in America has steadily been towards freedom and equality for all. I wonder what the historians of future generations will say of our days today. Are we continuing to move forward? Are we being bedeviled by one setback after another? How will they judge us.
React: Now to make a drastic change in direction, I must ask, when was your day of freedom? At what point in your life were you loosed from the shackles that kept you enslaved to sin? Has that moment come yet? I can’t honestly remember mine. I have vague memories of a Sunday School class when the teacher was asking if anyone would want to accept Christ. I remember thinking that I did not need to because it was something I had already done. Mrs Wojack was another Sunday School teacher of mine even further back and she claims I prayed with her back before we moved from Greece to Syracuse NY. That would mean I would have been three on my day of freedom.
Just like those working for civil rights and equal rights for all people of all nationalities and religions, I have come far in my walk with God but still have much further to go. In the same way, the Israelites were marking their day of freedom but they still had a long march ahead before they would enter promised land. Tomorrow marks the beginning of Black History month. It is a time to look back at all we have accomplished while also looking ahead to where we still need to go. Before tomorrow starts, take a moment to do the same thing in your own life. Where has God brought you? Where is He leading you? How will you get there?