Free to Stay Free

Ready for some little-known history? Yeah, I know it’s summer, but this is too good to pass up . . .

Your debt is paid. You are free!

The day was June 19, 1865. [1] The Civil War had officially ended two months earlier, when General Lee surrendered to the North at Appomattox. But without TV, phones, or the Internet, news of the war’s end traveled slower than molasses. Because Texas was the westernmost Confederate state, it got news last of all. The Union finally had to send two thousand troops to the Lone Star State, led by Major General Gordon Granger, to announce some rather important news.

The general’s first order of business? Tell everyone in Galveston, Texas, “Hey y’all, the war’s over—oh, and you guys lost.” Then, in the hot, humid weather typical for the Gulf of Mexico, General Granger prepared to read the next order of business: “General Orders, No. 3.”

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. [2]

In other words, your slaves are free, and if you want them to work for you, you’re going to have to pay them. Two hundred and fifty thousand slaves in Texas—men, women, and children who had spent their lives in bondage—suddenly heard that they were free. Can you imagine the shock? The bewilderment? The giddy whoops and hollers? Can you picture the pain-weathered faces of a dad, daughter, grandpa, or cousin as news of their freedom swept over them?

God declares us free, but we have a responsibility to stay free.

It’s hard to imagine that anything could have spoiled the exciting news, but General Granger’s announcement was indeed bittersweet. A grim truth was hidden between the lines of “General Orders, No.3.” Those slaves soon found out that President Lincoln had declared them free two-and-a-half years earlier.

When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he abolished slavery. But of course that news hadn’t traveled to Confederate-controlled states such as Texas. So men, women, and children just kept right on serving their illegal masters—picking cotton, cleaning house, chopping wood, and caring for their masters’ families—because they didn’t know the truth about their independence. Lincoln’s declaration of freedom had no power over those who didn’t know they had been freed. They just went right on being slaves.

Can you imagine finding out that you had just spent two-and-a-half years of your life serving a—perhaps very cruel— master when you didn’t even have to? When it wasn’t even legal? Man. I have to admit I’d probably be fighting some resentment. I’d probably be wondering, Why didn’t anyone come tell us? How could no one feel this was important enough to cross enemy lines to let us know?

Well, there’s something I need you to know, something important enough for me to cross enemy lines to tell you.

If you’ve given your life to God, but you’re still trapped by a secret sin (like an eating disorder, self-harm, sexual addiction, substance abuse, or same-sex relationship), the grim truth is that you’re slaving away for an illegal master. The King declared you free when Jesus took your sin and nailed it with Him to a cross. In Romans 6, Paul sounds a bit like General Granger, proclaiming freedom to those who have no idea they’re already free. His message goes something like this (I highly recommend you check out the whole chapter for yourself):

“Haven’t you heard? You are no longer slaves to sin! When Christ died, you were set free from sin’s power. . . . He died to break the power of sin, and now He lives for God’s glory. Now it’s your turn! . . . Live like you’re dead to sin’s power but alive to God through Christ Jesus. Sin is no longer your master!” Romans 6:6–7, 10–11, 14 (my paraphrase)

Now, please don’t feel like I’m pointing a finger here saying, “Shame on you!” As I confessed yesterday, I spent thirteen years serving an illegal master! I was doing backbreaking labor trying to fix myself, but just keep sinking deeper into sin. Now that I’m on the other side of my secret sins, though, I want to offer you the truth I wish someone had shared with me back then: Your debt is paid. You are free!

God declares us free, but we have a responsibility to stay free. [3]

That’s why I wrote Unashamed: Overcoming the Sins No Girl Wants to Talk About. Because the price for our freedom—Jesus’ own blood—is too high for us to keep sinning and suffering in silence. If you’re ready to start living like the free girl you are, I’d love for you to pick up a copy of the book so I can take that journey with you. And be sure to come back tomorrow for a chance to win a free copy, plus other goodies!

Let’s talk! Do you know anyone who needs to hear that they are free, just like the slaves needed to hear General Granger’s news? And why do you think it’s so hard to stay free from sin when God has already declared us free?
_________________________

1. Except where noted, the information used for this story is from “Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day,” by Kenneth C. Davis, Smithsonian.com, June 16, 2011, http://www.smithsonianmag.com /history-archaeology/Juneteenth-Our-Other-Independence-Day.html.
2. “Juneteenth,” Texas State Library and Archives Commission, accessed October 6, 2013, https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ref/abouttx /juneteenth html.
3. This post is adapted from Unashamed: Overcoming the Sins No Girl Wants to Talk About, pp. 85-89 (NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 2015).

About Author

Jessie Minassian is a speaker, blogger, and the author of ten books and Bible studies, including Crushed, Unashamed, and Backwards Beauty. She is the "resident big sis" at LifeLoveandGod.com, a Q&A website for teen girls. Her work for teens and their parents has been featured internationally through outlets such as Focus on the Family, Parenting Today’s Teens, She Reads Truth, Axis, Revive Our Hearts and YouthWorker Journal. She and her husband live and serve at Hume Lake Christian Camps in California, and have two daughters.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

  • * Requests or gives personal information such as email address, address, or phone number.
  • * Attacks other readers.
  • * Uses vulgar or profane language.