In Texas, where I grew up, there were festive parades and picnics in Black communities every June 19. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I learned the heartbreaking significance of Juneteenth (a word combining “June” and “nineteenth”) celebrations. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation giving them their freedom—two-and-a-half years earlier. Enslaved people in Texas kept living in slavery because they didn’t know they’d been freed.
It’s possible to be free and yet live as slaves. In Galatians, Paul wrote about another kind of slavery: living life under the crushing demands of religious rules. In this pivotal verse, Paul encouraged his readers that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Believers in Jesus had been set free from external regulations, including what to eat and who to befriend. Many, however, still lived as if they were enslaved.
Unfortunately, we can do the same thing today. But the reality is that Jesus set us free from living in fear of man-made religious standards the moment we trusted in Him. Freedom has been proclaimed. Let’s live it out in His power.