By the Rev. Dr. Lakeya Stewart, M.Div., D.Min., ABD
Artist the Rev. Milton Brunson sang a song that started off like this: “I am free. Praise the Lord, I’m free. No longer bound, No more chains holding me….” In the spirit of that song, I challenge you to shout from the rooftop, “I am free!”
June 19, 1865 is affectionately known as Juneteenth. Most people know it as “Freedom Day” as it commemorates the emancipation of African American citizens all over the United States. Many people are now silent over the historical period known as slavery. We often fail to acknowledge the pain, suffering and oppression that “our people” experienced and endured. Instead, without hesitation we often shout and proclaim, “I am free!” Weeks like these last few that celebrate Juneteenth should at least cause our minds to reflect on “how we [I] got over.”
Just like we should remember and reflect on Juneteenth and the freedoms associated with this celebration, we should also celebrate our freedom in Christ. This shouldn’t be limited to a particular week or month, but should be done every day. Galatians 5:1 says to, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Many of us wonder, “but what is bondage in contrast to being free?” Bondage in this instance refers to the fear of some severe repercussions happening as a result of the law being used to make us right. In other words, I mean the anxiety and fear one might experience when we feel our actions and our “keeping the law” are not good enough or are not acceptable to God.
Jesus died so that we may be free. Concerning those who attempt to keep the whole law, Galatians states in chapter 5 verse 4 that, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Believers no longer have to “earn” their righteousness. Verse 5 of chapter 5 says, “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”
It was this freedom in Christ and the gospel message that got “our people” through slavery. This hope of something greater to come also gets “us” through difficult times today. Yes, many of “our people” are in physical chains in prison and in local jails but, even more so, “our people” carry mental chains daily. Our children feel inferior to their peers of different races, employees don’t apply for positions of promotion because of insecurities and complexes of inferiority, and we are afraid to speak properly for fear of being told that we “sound white.” Since when has “white” been equal to right? I could go on. I have done years of study on this topic as an African/African American Studies major in college but we will discuss this further at another time. We must always remember our past so that we can better understand today and the prospects of our future.
The Gospel message is “good news”. Jesus Christ died so that we could be free. Free from sin, free from depression, free from anxiety… free from… (you fill in the blank). No longer are we bound by the workings of the law. Obeying sacrificial laws and other works-based laws no longer puts us in right relationship with God. Our faith in Christ and the story of his death justifies us. We are free—praise the Lord, we’re free! Be blessed.
For questions or further correspondence concerning future topics or speaking engagements, please email at RevStewartSpeaks@outlook.com.
The Rev. Dr. Lakeya Stewart, M.Div., D.Min., ABD attended Berea College and the Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and earned a double major B.A. degree in Sociology and in African & African American Studies as well as the Master of Divinity Degree. Rev. Stewart is currently writing a dissertation on Toxic Leadership and Spiritual Abuse through Regent University.