On June 19th, 1965, news of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the Southern United States finally reached Galveston, Texas. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, federal troops finally arrived in Texas to announce the long-overdue liberation of enslaved African American people. On June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden announced Juneteenth as a federal holiday. However, Juneteenth has long been celebrated by African American communities all over the country for years dating back to 1866. Juneteenth represents our nation’s all-inclusive Independence Day.
Juneteenth helps us see history through the lens of justice and celebrate liberation. In scripture, God commands us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Juneteenth represents a day of rejoicing for Christians. Amos 5:24 says, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
In the context of American culture today, a time where there is so much division and injustice, Christians should take every opportunity they can to join hands with each other and celebrate unity in Christ. The unity commanded in the Bible is a product of the radical love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ (John 3:16, Romans 5:8). Because we are reconciled in Christ we can reconcile with each other. Romans 12:16 commands us to “Live in harmony with one another.” At In His Steps Ministries, reconciliation is at the heart of all we do because it always points back to the gospel. The love and sacrifice of Christ on the cross reconciles us back to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”
While there is still much injustice happening to African American people today and division amongst believers and non-believers alike, Juneteenth offers a day of hope in the walk of reconciliation for all of us. Our faith in Christ should spur a desire for reconciliation.
The song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by African American writer and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson, is filled with praise to God for the gift of freedom. This excerpt from the poem reflects the presence of God in the affirmation of liberation:
“God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,”
This Juneteenth, we encourage you to reflect on past and present injustices, pray for continued repentance and reconciliation in our country, and celebrate how far we’ve already come by the grace of God. Happy Juneteenth!