Across the Pastor’s Desk: Bringing freedom to the hopeless

Published 9:27 am Friday, June 17, 2016

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Vern Harris

Vern Harris is pastor of New Life Christian Church. 

On Jan. 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, “…that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.” These simple words are a small but crucial portion of the legal statement known as “The Emancipation Proclamation.” There were two more bloody years of civil war to fight before the new law could become accepted as reality but even then, true freedom was greatly challenged.

Vern Harris

Vern Harris

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When the war ended hundreds of thousands whose legal status had been slave”were now known as free. However, with nowhere to go and no means to get there even if they had a destination, most remained tied to the same physical location and legal slavery was quickly replaced by economic slavery. For most, the laws changed, but their lives didn’t greatly improve.

For many families the hardships of this type of slavery continue to be passed along generation to generation to this very day, even within our beautiful community.

If there is a distinctive difference to note, it would be that economic slavery is not bound by pigmentation, nationality, faith, age or creed. It is shared throughout the land and its oppression continues to define lives every day.

Of course there are government programs that help, but the cracks in the system are many and wide. Of course there are other factors that enter in as some families who suffer through the hardships of economic oppression are marred by additional types of personal slavery such as addictions.

From the outside looking in it is easy to push those families’ needs aside and justify our attitudes because their situation is to a significant degree brought about by their own poor choices.

That thought brings us to other types of slavery, such as when our hearts and spirits are held captive by prejudices, greed and apathy. Another is when we cling to such sins and bear the ongoing pain of their crushing consequences.

Jesus gives us a wonderful promise in John 8:34-36, when Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

But what of the economic slavery that stains our country? Well, none of us are in a position to make a proclamation that changes law and puts such suffering to an end. None of us are in a position where our actions are going to solve the problem and create absolute balance and fairness. None of us are in a position to end addictions and the disastrous damage they bring upon families.

So do we sit on our hands and do nothing? I certainly hope not! We are instructed in Galatians 6:9:

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

We may not be able to put an end to the problems, but that doesn’t mean we are unable to bring righteous help and aid. Thankfully, in our community it isn’t even difficult to do. We have some incredibly dynamic local ministries locally to support, knowing that everything we do, no matter how great or small, is going to contribute to someone’s freedom from hunger and hardship.

To name a few, we have a very active Salvation Army ministry at work in our community every day helping to meet many types of needs. We have our Ecumenical Food Pantry providing food for those in need. The Alden Area Food Shelf shares love and sustenance for the hungry. We have our Youth for Christ ministry, The Rock, which aims directly at the many needs of our youngest neighbors with food as well as many other kinds of needed comfort and aid. These and others work very hard to provide many types of blessing and support.

Being a part of the solution doesn’t mean that we must either fix the problem or not bother to try. It means being faithful, loving and kind. It means reaching out to help and encourage as God gives us strength. It means opening our eyes, which will then open our hearts. It means going to bed each night knowing that you’ve done your best to help, and to bring a taste of freedom to those who feel trapped and helpless. It means being faithful, knowing that you, too, will be blessed with a greater freedom!