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Emancipation Day

Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on

April 15 is tax day in America, except in 2016 when taxes were due on April 18. The reason for this three day grace period was Emancipation Day, a holiday celebrated only in Washington D.C. Emancipation Day, which is annually celebrated on April 16, was observed on April 15th in our nation’s capital because the 16th was on Saturday this year. Emancipation Day commemorates the abolition of slavery in Washington D.C. by Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862.

In his letter to the Galatians (Chapter 5), the Apostle Paul proclaims that Jesus Christ has emancipated us from our slavery to sin. Sin is pictured as a yoke of slavery. Those who battle addiction know the yoke of which Paul speaks, bound and unable to break free. In sin we are shackled to death with no hope of escape. Sin is a dreadful taskmaster.

All sin enslaves and destroys us and our relationships with God, our self, and others. Sin deceives us with momentary pleasure, but the result of sin is death both now and later. For example, when I lie or steal from a friend, a “death” occurs in that relationship immediately, even if it is not discovered until later.

The sins of others can also enslave. Many are robbed of the experience of love, peace, and faith because they are abused and victimized by others. The result of sin is death, a death that is sometimes not our own fault, yet still we are left enslaved and dying.

So, Paul’s proclamation of emancipation is not just good news, it is great news. Our freedom is found in forgiveness. The grace of forgiveness cleanses us and brings life where there was only death and dying. While we may still bear the scars of slavery, our freedom brings healing and hope where there was previously pain and despair.

The liberating work of Christ plants in us the life of the Spirit of God. The Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This fruit not only nourishes us, but brings healing in our relationships with others.

Tragically, many who are freed from the yoke and shackles of sin are unsure of how to use their freedom. Some refuse to live into the harvest of fruit the Spirit intends to grow. Instead they use their freedom to pursue the pleasures of sin, only to find themselves enslaved again.

Thankfully, there is an alternative. Paul invites us to do something radical with our freedom. He calls us to use our freedom to serve one another. By serving one another, the Spirit’s fruit can grow and mature in us, benefiting both us and our neighbor.

Freedom is not a license to sin. Rather, freedom is our God-given opportunity to love and serve one another. How are you using your freedom today?

I am thankful for the gift of emancipation, both in our nation and in my life. Yet the yoke of slavery continues to destroy. Many are still in need of emancipation. The work continues on all levels, but it begins with you. How will you experience emancipation today?