My big Christmas present this year was a Kindle. Since I love to read it was the perfect present. One unexpected benefit of my Kindle has been all the free books I can download. Very cool. I downloaded a load of classics. During my recent trip to Thailand I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I know I was probably supposed to read it in Junior High but I must have been daydreaming because I didn’t remember it at all.
It is a fictional account of composite true stories. She follows several story lines with one of them being the character referred to as Uncle Tom.
Two of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brothers were rather famous preachers (Henry Ward Beecher and Charles Beecher). She weaves Christianity throughout the book. Predictably there is some terrible Christianity represented by slave owners. Then there is some fearless and pure Christianity practiced by the Quakers who are abolitionists willing to die for the runaway slave but not willing to kill. Then, most surprisingly of all is the Christianity reflected in the lives of some of the slaves particularly of Uncle Tom.
I don’t know how being an “Uncle Tom” became a negative thing but it makes me mad. In the story, Uncle Tom displays love and grace and strength that is breathtaking. His faith is tested at every turn and instead of becoming bitter and hateful he becomes stronger and purer. Maybe it was because I just finished the series on I Peter where Peter encourages Christians who are going through the fire of injustice. Maybe it was because I was on my way to check out a ministry right smack dab in the middle of modern slavery. But whatever the reason, I found myself loving this man who throughout the whole book never even had a last name. Such was the plight of the American Negro slave.
When preaching about suffering these past few months I have used many illustrations. I recognized many of us are hurting for one reason or another. No one gets out of here alive let alone unscathed. But all the suffering I used pales in significance to what the American slave endured. I crumple when the temperature rises just a few degrees in my otherwise comfortable life. Uncle Tom stood in the furnace like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and came out pure as gold. It made me look forward to the time I will sit with men like him in heaven and hear what it was like to be in the midst of the fire with the One who is like unto a Son of God.
When Abraham Lincoln finally met Harriet Beecher Stowe he allegedly said, “So, you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War.” God used this book to awaken the conscience of a nation. Read it, and let it awaken your conscience and give you strength for whatever God is taking you through.
Lord help me to be an Uncle Tom.