Spir­i­tual songs get us through

The Covington News - - Religion - COLUM­NIST JA­SON DEES Ja­son Dees is a grate­ful fol­lower of Je­sus Christ, the hus­band of Paige and the fa­ther of Emery Anna. He is also the se­nior pas­tor of First Bap­tist Church in Cov­ing­ton.

The great black mark on Amer­i­can his­tory is slav­ery. From the be­gin­ning of our na­tion’s set­tle­ment un­til Jan. 1, 1963, Amer­i­cans owned, sold and pur­chased other hu­man be­ings. Be­yond this, many slave own­ers were in­cred­i­bly cruel to their slaves treat­ing them with no re­gard of hu­man dig­nity. Slaves were beaten, spit upon, given no health­care, den­i­grated, ripped away from their fam­i­lies and worked to death. Slaves didn’t grow up dream­ing about their fu­tures and all they would ac­com­plish with their lives.

No such op­por­tu­ni­ties were af­forded to them. Slaves would work in some­one else’s field for some­one else’s profit and then die. That was the great vi­sion for the life of a slave. Yet, de­spite all of this, de­spite these in­cred­i­bly im­pos­si­ble con­di­tions, the ac­counts that I hear of South­ern slaves in the 18th and 19th cen­turies aren’t ac­counts of des­per­a­tion, gloom and de­spair, but rather ac­counts of great hope. Slaves had fam­i­lies and joy in their com­mu­ni­ties. Slaves were re­spect­ful of one an­other and of their slave masters. Slaves worked hard and did what was right.

When­ever I hear these ac­counts of South­ern slav­ery and the in­cred­i­ble for­ti­tude slaves dis­played I have of­ten won­dered: Where did they get this strength? Where did they get this re­solve? How did they have such hope? And I have dis­cov­ered that we can gain some great in­sight on this in old spir­i­tu­als songs. Con­sider these few lines from one of the most fa­mous of the old spir­i­tual songs “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”:

Swing Low sweet Chariot com­ing for to carry me home.

I looked over Jor­dan, and what did I see. A band of an­gels com­ing af­ter me,

Some­times I’m up, and some­times I’m down. But still my soul feels heav­enly bound.

This is just one ex­am­ple, but if you read through these songs, you will quickly find that just about all of them are about heaven. They are about the day when “we see Je­sus,” “when I’m free,” and “our re­ward will come.” Thus, we see the great se­cret. Amer­i­can slaves didn’t have very much hope in this life, but that had an un­break­able hope in the life to come. And that hope made them in­cred­i­bly strong. De­spite im­mea­sur­able odds they pressed on and walked rightly and humbly be­fore God.

Your fu­ture hope is the num­ber one de­ter­mi­na­tive of your present joy, ac­tiv­ity, and peace. What you are hop­ing in for the fu­ture will tell you a lot about who you are now. So, the ques­tion for you is where is your hope? What are you hop­ing in that will re­ally last?

My hope for you, for my church, and for my­self is that we would hope in the eter­nal, never di­min­ish­ing king­dom of Christ. In his king­dom re­la­tion­ships will never end, hearts will never be bro­ken, and true peace will be known. Trust in Je­sus, the Son of God who came to earth to save you from your sin and to call you into his eter­nal joy.

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