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Dr. James Noble: Juneteenth Reminds Us of the High Cost of Freedom

June 18, 2021
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Dr. James Noble, who serves as vice president for diversity and inclusion at Anderson University, examines Juneteenth and explains the meaning of freedom.

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Anderson University Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Dr. James Noble, examines Juneteenth, making the connection between freedom from slavery and, in Christ, freedom from sin.

Anticipating Freedom

African American churches hold Watch Night services on December 31. Churches gather for high praises, celebratory singing, and gospel preaching. After a night of praising God, a few minutes before midnight, the pastor offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God, and at midnight, everyone shouts “Happy New Year!” On “Freedom’s Eve” or the eve of January 1, 1863, the first Watch Night services took place. African Americans met in their churches and homes, awaiting the news of the Emancipation Proclamation. At the stroke of midnight, they received word that all enslaved people in the Confederate States were legally free.

Celebrating Freedom

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863. In Confederate States, slaves were not immediately free. Freedom for the slaves did not come until Union Soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to announce their freedom by executive order. According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, on June 19, 1865, more than 250,000 slaves gained their freedom. This historic day marked the official celebration called “Juneteenth,” a portmanteau of June and nineteenth. On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday.

Experiencing Freedom

This year, America celebrates Juneteenth to commemorate freedom from slavery. The holiday reminds us all that freedom comes with a great cost. As Christians, we celebrate the true freedom that only comes through Christ. Jesus paid the ultimate price as the atoning sacrifice to free all people from sin. This liberation from sin remains the truest freedom a person can experience. In John 8:36, Jesus gloriously proclaimed, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you will be free indeed.” When we place our trust in Jesus, and repent of our sins, God releases us from the shame, guilt and eternal penalty of sin.

Celebrating Juneteenth reminds us of the high cost of freedom and the value of living as free Americans. As Christians, may we also never forget the spiritual freedom afforded us in Christ. Because of one man willing to give His life for the sins of the world, Christ offers true freedom to everyone. In Christ, we experience an eternal relationship with God, a life of peace and joy. Experiencing this freedom compels us to sing the hymn, “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”

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