They were sanctuaries for slaves—homes that made history. Lionhearted abolitionists all across the North volunteered their homes as safehouses for slaves seeking freedom prior to and during the Civil War. Homeowners from Indiana to New York partnered with antislavery activists like Harriet Tubman in a secret network known today as the Underground Railroad. They worked together to provide pathways to freedom for exhausted slaves. And over time, many of these homes were awarded landmark status because history happened within their walls.
When visiting places like the Johnson House in Philadelphia or the Levi Coffin House in Fountain City, one is filled with awe and humility because lives were transformed there. The hardwood floors are not divine. The brick walls are not holy. There is no mystical aura surrounding these historical sites. They are sacred sanctuaries because of what happened there: weary captives were liberated from slavery.
The same can be said of any biblical church that faithfully preaches the gospel of Christ. A church that proclaims “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) is a holy sanctuary, not because the carpet and stained-glass windows are sanctified, but because enslaved sinners are set free within their walls. It makes no difference if your church is massive or miniscule; what matters is whether miracles happen within its walls. God wants our churches to be “safehouses” for sinners—places where they can be emancipated from spiritual slavery. He wants our churches to be places where hopeless sinners can experience the reality of Romans 6:
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (vv. 17-18).
Jesus came to release men, women, and children from spiritual bondage to sin, the devil, and the world. He said it Himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Such exhilarating freedom comes to weary sinners when they hear and believe the truth about Jesus: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). And it is the duty of every disciple to declare the gospel truth so people can believe it by faith. As God said in Isaiah, “[Say] to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’” (Isaiah 49:9b).
Does your church have “landmark status?” Is it a place where history is made, where sinners are redeemed from spiritual slavery? Is it a safehouse for sinners?
Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.