This Juneteenth, Explore How Freedom in Jesus Leads Us to Love
Rejoice in your freedom in Christ and ask God to show you new ways to love others
If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.
John 8:36 GNT
On July 5th, 1852, abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass gave a speech commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Fourth of July—a day that reminded many Americans of their freedom.
“[July 4th] is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom,” Douglass said. “This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance.”
But Douglass—who had been enslaved for the first 20 years of his life—knew that Independence Day had not yet arrived for many Americans. In his speech, he focused on the freedom denied to enslaved people. He refuted common arguments for the sin of slavery and condemned the false religion that defended the institution. And he urged his audience to remove slavery from their nation, looking forward to the day when all Americans would be free.
More than a decade later, on June 19th, 1865, a group of the last enslaved Americans received news of their emancipation in Texas—two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
This long-awaited day became known as Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day. Celebrated by many African Americans for more than 150 years, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday and observed by Americans of all backgrounds. This Juneteenth, we have an opportunity to mark the end of slavery, thank God for the efforts of abolitionists and civil rights leaders who championed the cause of equality, and celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in our nation today.
For Christians, this holiday is also a chance to meditate on the Bible’s message of freedom through Christ and consider how this freedom leads us to love one another.
Christ Gives Us Freedom
Centuries before Douglass spoke about freedom in a young America, the apostle Paul was writing letters to infant churches in the ancient Near East.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul also referenced Passover, the holiday celebrated by Jewish people to remember God’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery. His aim was to remind the church of their final deliverance through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
For our Passover Festival is ready, now that Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us celebrate our Passover, then, not with bread having the old yeast of sin and wickedness, but with the bread that has no yeast, the bread of purity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7b-8)
Through this sacrifice, Paul wrote, we receive true freedom from sin: “Freedom is what we have—Christ has set us free!” (Galatians 5:1).
The question many churches struggled with was what to do with that freedom. Some Christians, like the Galatians, went back to relying on perfect obedience to the law to earn their salvation. Others, like the Corinthians, tolerated terrible sins in the church.
Paul rejected both ideas. In Christ, we are set free to live lives dedicated to God (Romans 6:22). This means that true freedom leads us to love.
Freedom Leads to Love
Without love, Paul wrote, all our words and actions are worthless (1 Corinthians 13). Our freedom must be guided by love that is patient, kind, and eternal:
As for you, my friends, you were called to be free. But do not let this freedom become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another. For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14 GNT)
Today, your freedom in Christ leads you to love your family, friends, and neighbors as Christ loves you. What could that look like?
- Offer support to a friend who is going through a difficult time (Galatians 6:2).
- Stand up for justice (Micah 6:8) and look for new ways to advocate for people who are forgotten, marginalized, or oppressed (Isaiah 1:17).
- Ask God for help removing a stubborn sin like pride, bitterness, or selfishness from your heart so that you can love others more abundantly (Psalm 51:10)
- Get to know a new person or family from your church by inviting them to your home (Romans 12:13).
- Give your money, time, or talents to someone in need (Proverbs 11:24-25).
- Pray with and for the people God has put in your life (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- Share the gospel with someone looking for hope (Mark 16:15).
- Ask God to help you proclaim the Bible’s message of liberty in every area of your life (Leviticus 25:10).
This Juneteenth, as we celebrate the end of slavery in our nation, you can rejoice in the freedom you received in Christ. Ask God to give you new opportunities to show his love to others!
Happy Juneteenth from American Bible Society! As you remember the ongoing legacy of freedom in our nation and meditate on your freedom in Christ, we invite you to explore these free resources to inspire your faith:
- Discover 3 Ways to Learn and Pray This Juneteenth
- Explore the Apostle Paul’s Words on Freedom in Christ in Galatians 5
- Free Prayer Guide: 20 Scriptures That Teach Us How to Pray for Justice
- Free Prayer Guide: 7 Ways to Pray for America
The Faith and Liberty Bible. American Bible Society. 2021.
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