Slaves in Virginia during the Civil War endured many hardships.
One of the many hardships included the clothing slave children had to wear. Namely, flax shirts.
A New Shirt Was No Occasion for Celebration
The poorest plants were used to make the long shirts the children wore as their only article of clothing for years. The coarse shirts scratched their bodies and only frequent washings and constant use could soften them.
Therefore, a new shirt was no occasion for celebration. It pricked a young child's sensitive skin like “a dozen or more chestnut burrs, or a hundred small pin-points.”1
Young Booker T. Washington—who later became an author and advisor to U.S. presidents—had an older brother, John. And on several occasions when Booker received a new flax shirt, John wore it first. He suffered the pain and endured the scratching and itching until the shirt had softened. Then John would return it to his grateful brother, sparing him the suffering he was destined to bear.
Jesus Carried Our Pains
The story of the flax shirt—magnified many times—illustrates the gospel, what Jesus did for each of us.
“He carried our pains,” the Bible says. “He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities ... we are healed by His wounds” (Isa. 53:4-5).
Because of our sin and rebellion against God, we were destined for death. But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, willingly stepped into our world, took our sin upon Himself, and died on a cross to set us free from death. God then raised Jesus from the dead, which means He offers us a new, eternal life.
Jesus did what we couldn’t. He lived perfectly and took our place, suffering the pain and enduring the punishment we all deserve. Through Jesus, we may be forgiven. His sacrifice allowed our salvation; His suffering brought us healing!
A Call to Action
If you would like to accept the free gift of forgiveness through Jesus, there are only three steps: First, admit that you are a sinner. Second, turn from the sin that has kept you from God, and live a life in submission to Him. Third, confess your faith in Jesus as your Savior and Lord. You can express all of these things in a simple prayer like this one:
“Jesus, thank You for taking my place and suffering the punishment my sins deserve. I ask You to forgive my sins and cleanse me from guilt. I commit to following You day by day. I trust You to make my heart and life clean, believing that the One who took my punishment can surely be trusted with my life. Amen.”
If by reading this, you chose to receive Jesus Christ into your life, tell a pastor or another Christian about your decision. Or call 1-888-537-8720
1. Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington (Doubleday, 1901)