This week, we have an opportunity to reflect on an incredible anniversary that occurred last Saturday, June 19th. On the same day in the year 1865, the existence of chattel slavery (historically defined as the ownership of other human beings – as opposed to less aggressive forms of servanthood) was put behind our nation, once and for all. Now, we have the opportunity as Christians, who celebrate freedom from a variety of oppressions, to continue that great tradition.
For those unaware of the events surrounding Juneteenth, they are centered around the Emancipation Proclamation, as given by Abraham Lincoln, which freed the slaves. This would have been officially true as of January 1st, 1862. However, the proclamation was not immediately adopted throughout the nation. It wasn’t until June 19th, 1865, with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in April and the enforcement of this Emancipation that the last remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom.
There are certain moments in history which testify to the dignity of humanity in massive ways. This was one of them. With the crumbling of a long-standing practice that held such lucrative promises to those who practiced it and to the country as a whole, the world saw good overcome evil in this instance. With the foundational Christian doctrines of universal human dignity and liberty, a tremendous step forward was taken and should always be remembered as a national memory worth sharing.
So let us share. And let us celebrate. Let us come alongside those who feel these events more personally than ourselves and express our gratefulness that hope resounds, even in the most desperate of circumstances.
Let us also express this hope towards a world that has other forms of captivity, whether literal or figurative, that we also seek to put an end to. We see unimaginable statistics in regards to those victimized by sex trafficking in this nation and abroad. This hope speaks into those crushing circumstances as well. We see so many struggle under the burden of drug or alcohol abuse and are smothered by the shackles weighing them down. This hope speaks to them as well.
This is a hope that also obliterates false gospels. Whether legalism or license, we are a part of a humanity which skews to either extreme very easily. Legalism is the belief that our own actions can save our souls. If we might be able to prove our worth, perhaps we can earn salvation. As an opposite philosophy, license can convince a person that complete freedom has taken the place of God’s wishes for humanity. Any standards that He might have in the Scriptures have fallen away. Both of these systems of thought take the holder captive. Both of them place the holder at the mercy of human authority and enslave the holder to ideals that cannot bring freedom. Our hope comes only from its Author.
That would be the point, wouldn’t it? We celebrate these opportunities to gain freedom from oppression because they point to an ultimate freedom which was bought by the blood of Christ. With every 4th of July, we don’t make our priority the release of one earthly nation from the grasp of another. We celebrate a greater freedom that came from death on a cross. With every Juneteenth, we don’t focus solely on the physical freedom of such a mass of individuals. We celebrate that this freedom points to eternal spiritual freedom which was realized as this Son of God left His grave, full of life. With every earthly opportunity to watch a person, made in the image of God, receive freedom from sinful oppression, the Church and the angels erupt in worship that these experiences are merely a shadow of an even greater hope that was bought through the life-giving sacrifice of a loving God.
So, as we remember one of the many occasions to celebrate freedom, let’s appreciate the love of our Father. Let’s not take for granted our God who, while seeing us in bondage to our own sins, provided us a way to freedom. He provided us a greater emancipation when He proclaimed freedom to the captives. Everyone reading this post has access to that promise, so I pray everyone experience His life and enjoy that eternal freedom.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff