Free Indeed

Today Puerto Rico celebrates the abolition of slavery.  Slavery is a terrible, ugly thing no matter where you go. And here in Puerto Rico was no exception. The slaves were purchased as property and branded on the forehead with a hot iron to mark them as such. They were forced to convert to Catholicism. Forced to learn Spanish. Forced to work long, hard, hot days, doing back breaking work on the sugar cane plantations. 

Monument to the Abolition of Slavery in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Photo: encirclephotos.com

On March 22, 1873 the Spanish National Assembly passed a law abolishing slavery on the island. The decree set free 29, 335 slaves – or, at least, kind of anyway. It was actually more of potential freedom. The slaves still had to work for their masters 3 more years. And then, and only thenthey could they purchasetheir freedom. A pretty significant caveat if you ask me. 

The economy of the Atlantic Slave trade required it. There was too much riding on the backs of the slaves to just let them go. The plantation owners and the Spanish Crown had come depend on the labor they provided, and just letting the slaves go meant letting economic stability to with them.

Thanks be to God, the economy of our salvation works differently! 

When you and I were set free from sin from sin, death and the devil, there was no caveat. No condition. No agreement made that we would be free, but only after so many years, or earning our freedom after we had worked at it long enough. In the economy of our salvation, Jesus pays our ransom price in full and then he gives it to us completely for free. 

There is a famous Puerto Rican abolitionsit named Ramon Emeterio Betances. He’s from Mayaguez. He is celebrated as a local hero because he fought for the rights of the slaves on the island. At the Roman Catholic church just up the street, Betances would attend the baptism of babies born into slavery, and purchase their freedom. He would pay the price in full for their freedom and give it to them for free. What a powerful image of what our Lord has done for us! 

On the day of your Emancipation from slavery to sin, death, and the devil himself, the Holy Spirit was there at the fount, giving you the salvation Jesus purchased for you, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood! Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, our freedom is full. It is free. And it is for you! 

Unfortunately, today there are many Puerto Ricans today that continue to feel enslaved. – whether it be to the economic crisis, the complicated political status, separation from loved ones on the mainland, depression and anxiety, the list goes on. Obviously, we missionaries don’t have an answer to things like the economic crisis. But we do have this decree set forth by God, that we have the tremendous privilege or sharing with them: If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed (John 8). 

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