Back to Slavery?

This morning I spoke from Galatians 4 and 5, in which Paul said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). As I prepared my message, Joshua Rowe passed along a great illustration about a former slave named Jourdon Anderson, who was emancipated, freed from slavery, and who moved to Ohio where he found work, got a job, and started supporting his family. Remarkably his old master, Colonel P. H. Anderson, in Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to him asking him to come back and work for him. The former slave dictated a reply, and it was printed in a New York newspaper. Here’s what he said, in part, dated August 7, 1865:

To my Old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir, I got your letter and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again… I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this…. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable.

Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still  living…. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance….

I am doing tolerably well here. I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson. And the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated….

Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again…. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you.

This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship for the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor’s visits to me and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to.

Please send the money by Adam’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night….

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant, Jourdon Anderson

That old liberated slave may have lived a disadvantaged life without education or learning, but he was a far wiser man than the one to whom he addressed this letter. And he is far wiser than some of the Galatians who were willing to be re-enslaved. And he was a good deal smarter than some of us who are allowing those around us to re-introduce us to the worldly life that we once left.

Let me ask you a question: Who is cutting in on your spiritual progress? Who is threatening the freedom you have to live for Christ with all your hearts?

PS: You can read the entire letter here. It originally appeared in the New York Daily News. For my message on this subject, click here.