Should Juneteenth Be a Day of Division or Unity, Tearing Down or Building Up?


Until recently, the new Federal holiday of Juneteenth was a day very few people, even African Americans, had ever known.

That is because it marked the date when slaves in Galveston, Texas, received the news that they had been freed by Congress and President Lincoln on June 19th, 1865.

The holiday was only established three years ago by Congress and President Joe Biden as the country was still reeling from the destructive BLM riots that exacerbated the divisions of race that were reopened under Barack Obama.

A small amount of history can give us some insight into how we could frame this holiday to create more significant division or how we could build unity around our country’s willingness to confront the evils of slavery and racism.

When the observance of Juneteenth is framed around enslaved people not hearing the news of their freedom until troops arrived in Galveston in 1865, it focuses on victims instead of the fight for freedom.

But if we reframed the discussion on the fight, we might look to a different June 19th. Just three years earlier, in 1862, the United States Congress and Abraham Lincoln signed into law a bill abolishing slavery in the western territories.

Far from perfect and complete, the law was the first effort to set right the wrong of slavery, and it led to President Lincoln’s next act, signing the Emancipation Proclamation.

On September 22, 1862, Mr. Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that declared all slaves in the rebellious states to be forever free when it took full effect on January 1, 1863.

President Lincoln understood that he did not have the authority to declare an end to slavery inside the Union, which he rightly understood would take an amendment to the Constitution.

The people of the United States had to decide what needed to be done. Passing an amendment to the Constitution was no small matter, as even in the United States, unity is difficult to find.

However, on January 31st, 1865, after a long and emotional battle, Congress passed the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States. By December of that year, the states had ratified it, and it was the law of the land.

Just as with the church, we have a choice to divide or unite, build up or tear down. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, while the Lord brings life more abundant and free.

One clear way the enemy achieves his goals is to divide and conquer. This holiday can be used to make Americans clash.

When we focus on the victims of slavery who were not informed of their freedom instead of the battle to set them free, we divide and create bad feelings that lead to hatred and infighting.

The same is happening in the church today. As the Lord is putting His church through the refiner’s fire, or, you might say, separating the wheat from the tares, we can support or destroy each other.

Keep in mind what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 16:

“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” -Romans 16:17-18

We should not be simple-minded like the world but wise. In these last days, the church needs to understand the principles at work both by the Lord and by the enemy.

Our nation’s shift from Christianity to paganism will be our undoing as it becomes easier to divide us. However, we should not allow this to happen within the church. Now is the time to correctly divide the word of truth and build a strong church.

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