Growing up, Juneteenth wasn’t something that my family and I readily celebrated. In all honesty, I think we were ignorant to a pretty significant fact in American History, more specifically African American History. After President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) freeing slaves, there was still a portion of slaves in the Confederate South who had not yet received word but, even if they had, wouldn’t have been legally able to apply such proclamation to their lives. It wasn’t until after the Union won the Civil War (1865) did this proclamation apply, legally, to EVERY slave. This proclamation no doubt held in its sub-text very strong socio-economic implications for the Confederacy at that time and the enforcement of that proclamation would have only come from the Union army. Imagine the tension, as word and enforcement finally made it to Texas.

From the mouth of General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, came to those slaves probably one of the most life changing moments. The proclamation they had been longing for. The legal separation from racially and economically motivated violent oppression. While those slave states which made up the confederacy held on to their principles for more than a hundred years after this proclamation, its historical significance is what we celebrate.

In observance of Juneteenth, I applaud those who were bold enough to stand for freedom in the face of adversity. I also recognize the insidious nature of sin to keep people bound. Time plays a huge part in this historical narrative. I see it in the limited but growing authority of President Lincoln, and the lack of submission and slothfulness to that authority by the confederate states. I see it in our current sociopolitical climate. The old saying goes: “Time heals all wounds.” To that I add, “Time also reveals all wounds.” As we progress, it becomes important that we observe our history so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Time has taught me this. Restoration begins with equality. You cannot restore what you think less of. The cross levels the playing field for all people.

Time has taught me this. Restoration begins with equality. You cannot restore what you think less of. The cross levels the playing field for ALL PEOPLE. While we are equal at the foot of the cross, the process of working out that freedom will be relative to the person. Jesus came from heaven and put on human form to identify with humanity. Then, set us free by living a perfect life. Then, dying on the cross and being raised from dead with power over sin and death. His plan for all humanity all along was to restore us back to God. He accomplished that plan from the inside out. Similarly, the Emancipation began the tedious work of restoring humanity to African Americans.

Now, take a deep breath because I’m coming down your lane.

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” – Romans 5:6-9 

As I was thinking about Juneteenth, our ignorance of it, and the correlation to power of the gospel, I kept coming back to this question: Why didn’t someone tell me earlier?

Here we are some 2000 years after the cross. After precedent and legislation in heaven has been set by the blood of Jesus to free us from sin, and there are some who are still ignorant to the violent oppression and bondage of sin. We, my Christian brothers and sisters, have people in our community who are still ignorant to the power of the gospel, simply because YOU haven’t told them. For what? I think we’ve lost the fervor and boldness to share the gospel because we have become too comfortable and are concerned with our own freedom. Too comfortable. Too comfortable with occasionally posting a scripture on social media as a means of evangelism. Too comfortable with the pastor being the one who wins souls. Too comfortable with criticizing our churches but not investing time or money in the success of it. Snap out of it saints, that comfort is making you lazy. You, having been made free, have an accountability to this freedom declaration.

According to Matthew 28, Jesus commanded the eleven disciples to now “go and make” disciples. This is what should encourage you. As stated by Roger Connor in his book, General Gordon Granger, General Granger was known for, “his strict attention to all the details of making a well-disciplined body of soldiers out of a mass of awkward men from every walk of life.” This well-disciplined man, although not infamous in comparison, was the man that carried a message that generationally changed lives. General Granger is now celebrated for his seemingly mundane execution of his duties.

Isaiah 61:1 says it like this: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”

Now we, like the disciples, have the opportunity having been taught the faith to carry this life changing message of emancipation to the oppressed because we’ve been equipped for it!

By Bryant Stokes

Bryant Stokes is currently the Central Worship Director at Love Church, something he wouldn't trade for the world. If there is one thing you should know about him, he loves Jesus and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies!

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