Today is Juneteenth, commemorating the day in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order Number 3 in Galveston, Texas, “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” By June 19, 1865, the “proclamation”—the Emancipation Proclamation—was almost two and a half years old, the Civil War had been over for two months, and the “Executive of the United States,” had been assassinated. Still, the evils associated with slavery would persist. Historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner cites one witness who remarked, “the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free.”

Scroll forward 155 years, and freedom fully proclaimed is not yet fully practiced. Living in Minneapolis in the harsh wake of George Floyd’s death under a police officer’s knee, I’m deadly aware, once again, of the frustrating and infuriating track paved by racism in America. Worldwide protests and renewed calls for justice too long delayed are welcome, but the finish line feels far away. As the pandemic rages, unemployment persists, and an election looms, it will be easy for passion on the part of many to recede. Racial justice is a race Christians run and run, around and around—never quite making the progress we dream.

Nevertheless, Hebrews 12:1 insists we “run with perseverance the race set before us.” Surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses,” we’re told to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” We persevere because racism persists as sin that not only entangles but dehumanizes ...

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