Juneteenth and the Church
By Bishop Aaron Blake
We are living in a great time in history with tremendous opportunity to show what unity and solidarity could look like when the church (the body of Christ) leads the narrative of Emancipation and Reconciliation. We are all standing in need of spiritual emancipation and spiritual reconciliation.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.
As politics bleed into local churches, our positions can cause the best of us to assume a posture opposite to the humility of Christ and be frustrated or lash out in self protection. We forget the common dirt from which we came and will return. Praise be to God, that Christ Himself is our peace.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.
Yesterday was June 19 or what is known as Juneteenth. This is a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. This is an opportunity for faith leaders across the country to using Juneteenth 2021 as a chance not only to remember history but also to foster understanding and to foster a movement of spiritual reconciliation.
This is not just a black thing or just black history. This is American history. As dark as it may seem, it is the what and who of America. I believe what the devil meant for evil; God can and will turn for good. I am standing on the shoulders of great men and women who helped to build this place we call America.
Juneteenth provides a reminder to collectively grieve the evil of our past and to be part of God’s mission to transform it for good. This transformation can be led by the Church through setting the stage for both embodied and spiritual healing. Biblical teaching, preaching, and living sets this work in the proper context and demonstrates how all Christians are called to the ministry of reconciliation.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 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: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
If you are a new creation as the Scripture speaks, live that new life. If you have been reconciled to God, be an ambassador for that reconciliation. Let your reconciliation to God drive you to be reconciled to those around you. May our reconciliation to one another magnify and exemplify the glorious Gospel we preach.
Your brother in Christ,
Aaron Blake, Sr.
Harvest Family Life Ministries
More on Juneteenth
Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House two months earlier in Virginia, but slavery had remained relatively unaffected in Texas—until U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, had established that all enslaved people in Confederate states in rebelli
on against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
But in reality, the Emancipation Proclamation did not instantly free all enslaved people. The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control. However, as Northern troops advanced into the Confederate South, many enslaved people fled behind Union lines.
After the war came to a close in the spring of 1865, General Granger’s arrival in Galveston that June signaled freedom for Texas’s 250,000 enslaved people. Although emancipation didn’t happen overnight for everyone and, in some cases, enslavers withheld the information until after harvest season, when the news did arrive, celebrations broke out among newly freed Black people. Juneteenth was born. That December, slaver
y in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.
The year following 1865, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what became the annual celebration of "Jubilee Day" on June 19. In the ensuing decades, Juneteenth commemorations featured music, barbecues, prayer services and other activities. As Black people migrated from Texas to other parts of the country, the Juneteenth tradition spread.
In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday; several others followed suit over the years. In June 2021, Congress passed a resolution by establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday, and President Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021. WATCH: Emancipation Proclamation: How Lincoln Could Abolish Slavery