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Freedom to Love

You probably have never heard of Juneteenth.

It is the nineteenth of June, a day when Americans commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The nineteenth of June was the day the emancipation declaration was read in Texas in 1865.

It is now a U.S. federal holiday (Bank Holiday), signed into law by the current President.

June also tends to be the month when sexual and gender minorities celebrate their worth as people at an event called “Pride.”

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NRSV)

“Pride,” in this sense, means to be conscious of one’s own dignity. It is often celebrated with different colours of the rainbow, demonstrating the diversity shown in God’s creation.

Jesus Christ freed us a long time ago from the need to disrespect others and not treat them with dignity. Every single human being is made in God’s image and has the same human rights of dignity and respect.

If only Christians through the centuries had been more intent on following Jesus’ words and actions, things such as racism, homophobia and other harmful biases may have been eliminated already.

But cultural traditions are hard to overcome.

Christ not only freed us from the power of sin but also freed us to love each other.

We can choose to be kind to and care for people rather than treat others as unworthy of God’s grace and blessings. We are free to love as God first loved us, choosing to take actions of grace towards others.

Currently, in the United States, there seems to be a concerted effort to enslave people to

certain religious and cultural beliefs. Ironically, in the name of religious liberty, they want others to follow their religious doctrines and make it the law of the land. These laws are advocated mostly by people who claim to be Christians.

They have interpreted God’s words as forcing people to believe as they do and

be as they are, culturally.

I am reminded of John Wesley’s three rules: do no harm, do good, and love God (primarily through the means of grace).

There is a concerted effort to harm minorities in the name of God, not only people of different ethnic backgrounds - but now especially those who are different in sexual orientation or gender identity.

This is not at all like Christ in any way. New laws are preventing these minorities from getting the help they need to survive a culture that already harms them.

A Stonewall survey from 2017 showed that 8 out of 10 transgender youth have self-harmed, and about half have tried to kill themselves in the UK.

As Christians, we need to counter a culture (even a culture based on an interpretation of scripture) that demonizes people and criminalizes actions which stem from who they are as human beings. Transgendered people are less than 1% of the population, and sexual and gender minorities in Great Britain attempted suicide eight times more than the general population last year (FactCheckNI).

These are not people who choose a lifestyle or a belief but are internally, tangibly certain of an aspect of themselves they cannot change. They are not a project to be fixed but a person to be loved through acts of affirmation and support. “…there is no longer male and female;

for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28b).

Celebrate the freedom of Christ this summer by affirming diversity and God’s love of others who are different with acts of kindness. Perhaps, attend a “pride” event. Paul wrote a letter to the Galatians to affirm people that they did not have to change themselves to be like Jewish Christians, but they are free to be as they are.

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…for you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another” (Galatians 5:1,13). Amen.

Grace and peace,

Rev’d Kevin Highfield


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