In 1864, having served as a slave for 32 years, Jourdan Anderson escaped with his wife Amanda from their master, Colonel P.H. Anderson. They went to Ohio where Jourdan found work as a free man, finally able to support his family.
A year later, Jourdan received a letter from P. H., asking him to return to Tennessee and help restore P.H.’s failing business. It was a not-so-subtle invitation back to slavery.
Jourdan’s complete response is worth reading, but here is an excerpt:
I have often felt uneasy about you.…
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.…
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. 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 in the future.…
In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters.
Jourdan was a wise man, who understood the difference between freedom and bondage and how people that enslave will often entice others to enslavement by promising freedom.
Slavery is not freedom. That’s true for relationships. And that’s also true spiritually.
Our old master, sin, still comes calling, promising “back wages” and “freedom” if we only go back to him. “It will be better than last time,” he promises. “I’ve changed. I’ll treat you well. I need your help; we will be partners.”
The new master will be just like the old master, except perhaps worse (see Mt. 12:43-45). Like Jourdan Anderson, we do well to remind ourselves when enticing temptations come our way of the reality of our condition in Christ:
- Because we have died with Christ, we are freed from the bondage of sin (we don’t have to sin, Rom. 6:7). Sin won’t set us free; Christ has already set us free from sin.
- Sin is never freedom, no matter how appealing it looks. It’s always a trap, snare, chains, bondage, imprisonment, hostility, and death (Rom. 5:12; 6:13, 19).
- Before Christ, we could only sin and only obey the law of sin in our hearts; we were incapable of doing anything righteous (Rom. 6:17-19). Now, because of Christ, we can obey God and we can do things that please Him (Rom. 6:22; 8:3-4).
- There is only shame in sin; there is never shame or regret in righteousness — only benefit and joy (Rom. 6:21-22).
- The “wage” we receive from sin is infinitely worse than its promised pay (Rom. 6:23).
The fight against sin begins in the mind and heart as we cultivate new affections and desires that speak the truth about sin’s false promises and the truth about God’s gracious provisions. In your battles with your temptations, what are the lies that you are hearing from temptation? And what are the truths that you need to remind yourself of so that you can resist the temptation and delight in your true freedom? Let us be like Jourdan Anderson, who was always uneasy about his slave master, and when freed reminded his old slave master of the truth of his new position to keep from returning to his old enslavement.