I am a Black woman, and I love my heritage. Any reason to celebrate African American culture delights me. Holidays like Juneteenth have always given me a deeper appreciation for my community and the accomplishments we’ve made despite our origin story in the U.S.—especially when racial tensions swell and seem never ending.
For Black people in America, Juneteenth is a time to not only rejoice and reflect, but to also acknowledge the freedom given to our enslaved ancestors who were desperate for change.
Juneteenth (short for June nineteenth) is a holiday that celebrates the end of slavery—more specifically, the ending of slavery in Texas. Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, ending slavery in America. But it wasn’t until June 19, 1865—two years later—that the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, found out they were free. From then on, the formerly enslaved families of that community organized festivities on June 19 to commemorate their freedom from slavery.
Considering what the holiday represents, I think it’s important for Christians to celebrate Juneteenth. We should rejoice in the dismantling of such a horrible system. But we should also honor the holiday because we live as a unique example of what it means to walk in freedom. Every celebration can look different—and in most cases, it should. Black people celebrate based on a known and passed-down experience, while others’ celebrations are rooted in their support for the Black community. But a good place to start for all of us is with rejoicing over freedom, reflecting on our current reality, acknowledging the past, and nurturing hope for the future.
Rejoice—We are free from chattel slavery and the slavery of sin.
I typically carve out time to reflect and pray every year on Juneteenth, and I often think about the idea of freedom. I’m a Black woman who is also devoted to Christ, so I have a lineage of freedom two times over. I live in America as someone whose people were set free. And I am also no longer a slave to sin because Christ has set me free from its power. However, the two are not the same—being free from American chattel slavery is different from white Christians being free in Christ. But because Christians have a nuanced perspective on the implications of freedom, we should rejoice in our spiritual freedom and join the Black community in celebrating their freedom.
I rejoice in the fact that I get to experience life in a way that my ancestors could only ever dream of, and I know that part of that is due to God’s sovereignty. I might always wrestle with why slavery happened to us, but I trust that God is just and brings change in his perfect timing. And even though white Christians can’t rejoice in the same way I do, my hope is that they can rejoice in what God does—justice, dignity, and freedom.
Reflect—Even though we’re free, we still experience the ramifications of sin.
Even though my community is free from chattel slavery, we still fight against the racism and oppression that remain. In a similar way, Christians are free from the power of sin, but we still struggle to overcome it. We put on the full armor of God not because we weren’t given victory but because sin’s presence is still a harsh reality in our broken world. Similarly, we also must continue fighting against the sin of racism in our nation even though the law says we’re all equal.
What does it mean to be free, when the effects of slavery—both spiritually and literally—are constantly before us to witness? It’s a difficult question to think through but wrestling with it can help us appreciate the freedom God has given us.
Acknowledge—The past is part of our testimony.
As believers, we often avoid dwelling on our past sins because we can make a habit of pushing ourselves into shame rather than healthy conviction. But we’ve been called to share our testimony of how Christ has changed us, which involves telling the truth about where we were to show the world that the unbelievable is possible. Jesus can transform us. And I believe the same can be true for our nation. But we can only move forward if we acknowledge the past: the complicity of the church toward slavery, the oppression of Black people, the lasting effects of Jim Crow laws, to name a few.
The testimony of our nation’s grim history can help us see the error of its ways and show us what to avoid in the future. We know what went wrong and why. Just as we all try to learn from our past mistakes, especially as Christians, we can continue to move forward and make progress.
Hope—We can have hope for the future because Christ has the victory.
Even though looking back can help us move forward, we have to know what we’re moving toward. As believers, we know that God will make everything right one day—but in the meantime, we have to remember that he is a God of peace, justice, and love. He will not sit idly by while oppression continues to mark its territory. Our hope is that even when his actions are difficult to understand or slower than we’d expect, he is faithful to bring restoration to the world.
As you celebrate Juneteenth this year, sit with the emotions, questions, and sentiments that stir in your heart. Thank God for the freedom he’s given you, but also come boldly before him to ask for the wisdom we need to combat the remnant that sin has left in this world. He’s ready and willing to do it.
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