Today is June 19th; some refer to it as Juneteenth. A friend had to explain to me what was meant by that term. She shared that June 19th, 1865, was the day that marked the official end of slavery in America, as federal troops, led by General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, taking control of the state and freeing 250,000 enslaved people. It official marks the end of difficult and dark time in the life of our nation. However, though there have been many signs of progress, racism and racial tension still exist in our country and we as a nation still struggle to find ways to ensure 'freedom and justice for all." But as I think of this day, and the ongoing struggle we, as American citizens, face; I think back to a lesson I learned in Sunday School so many years ago. I wonder if this is a lesson we should focus on once again...
I grew up in a small, conservative, Christian church and Sunday School and worship were a regular part of my life. In our Sunday School, which I believe had about 6 children, we would usually begin by singing songs. We didn't have video players or DVD's but we didn't need them; the teacher would play the piano and we knew most of the songs by heart. One of them we sang regularly went like this:
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world;
red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
I don't know why, but this song has been on my mind in recent weeks. With alarming news stories followed by upsets, protests, and riots, I have thought long and hard about the significance of this little song. It is a song that reminds us that Jesus came to show us a way of love (especially for children). It is a song that reminds us that Jesus loves all children, regardless of race or the color of their skin. It is a song that reminds us that, as followers of Jesus, we are to love all people as well.
I have no idea what will truly bring an end to the racial divide we now experience in our country. In some ways I think it will take a miracle. In our own efforts to move forward there is no doubt that progress has been made; but the healing of hurt and mistrust sometimes requires something more. If some how we could not only sing, but truly embrace this simple Sunday School lesson (red and yellow, black and white; all are precious in His sight) perhaps we could see a great change taking place throughout our land.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.