Dirt. Gravel roads. Clucking chickens. Rolling, green hills. Whenever I visit my family's farm in Kentucky, I feel like I am stepping back in time to a period of simplicity and struggle. The land contains acres of embedded history, holding the pain and plight of my slave ancestors. As I walk the fields, I imagine my great-great-great-grandmother, Susan, pulling up tobacco plants in the hot summer sun.
I peek inside Susan's old log cabin, her refuge from the toil. I envision her there cooking up delicacies from scraps and dreaming of freedom by the windowsill. I wonder what her life was like to work years without pay for the Mills Estate and to raise biracial twin boys on her own. From relatives, I learned that after the Civil War, the estate went bankrupt, and the land was divided. Slaves were free not only from the bonds of slavery but also to depart from the place that troubled them. But Susan remained.
Fortunately, Susan and her sons were able to acquire a portion of the land to reconstruct their lives in liberty. However, their home, the little log cabin, had been put into the hands of another owner. I imagine Susan's goodbye to the cabin was bittersweet, saddened that her haven was taken away but hopeful of better days ahead.
Generations later, my uncle redeemed this cabin and its surrounding area. He bought it back and returned it to its rightful possessor. Now, my family members, the descendants of Susan, own much of what used to be the Mills Estate. The lost log cabin rests in safety, and so does her memory.
My family's story of slavery and freedom is a picture of the ultimate story of redemption as seen in the Bible. "Redemption" means "to regain something that was lost through a form of payment." In Leviticus 25:23–55, we see this concept expressed culturally through the acquisition of property and people. An Israelite who sold himself into slavery or sold his land to pay off debts could be redeemed by his closest relative. This relative would pay for the Israelite's freedom or for his land to be returned.
These laws represented spiritual truths. In Scripture, slavery and the loss of property were physical realities that pointed to the debt of immorality. The Israelites, who were God's chosen people, constantly rejected life with the Lord and chose the path of death. Their failure to live up to His Word proved them captives to sin. But through the prophets, God promised He would redeem His people. In Jeremiah 15:21, the Lord said, "I will rescue you from the power of evil people and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless." And the Israelites were hopeful God would restore their brokenness. In Psalm 130:8, a poet wrote, "...
God fulfilled His word to redeem His people through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Jesus came as our Redeemer. Like the Israelites, we, too, were bound to the lure of our wayward hearts. But Jesus called us into the family of God when we were born again by the Spirit and given His righteousness. Through His death on the cross, Jesus forgave our debts. By His resurrection, He pronounced victory over spiritual evil and freed us from the power of sin.
Jesus redeemed us so that we could enter into union with Him. Through Christ, we are indeed freed from sin, but we are not unchained to live on our own. Jesus bought us; therefore, we live freely in relationship with Him.
Ultimately, this relationship is salvific. God's redeeming act through Jesus is the way by which we have saving grace. In the hand of our Redeemer, our souls are secure and receive eternal life. As we pursue Christlikeness now, we can begin to experience this life while awaiting the complete "redemption of our bodies" when Jesus comes again (Romans 8:23).
How do we live as God's redeemed? 1 Corinthians 6:20 states, "...you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body." We are not our own; we are God's rightful possession. Yet, in this new identity, we find true freedom. We are God's chosen people, liberated from slavery to spiritual evil. As a result, we can worship God without the burden of our selfish desires. We can strive to praise God with all of who we are. So pray for the allure of sin to weaken. Remember the beauty of the gospel. Live without guilt and shame, and rest in the love of our Redeemer.