Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Does the Bible support slavery?

I do not agree that the Bible supports slavery. Slavery existed in the Ancient cultures of the time and still exists today as a result of economic imperialism. In the New Testament writings of the early church the apostle Paul declared that all people were considered of equal value whether they were male or female, of different nationalities or slave or free. (Galatians 3:28) In the book of Philemon Paul sends a runaway slave home with an offer to pay for any loss the owner might have incurred and a request that he now be treated as a family member, not a slave. The system of the time allowed slaves to earn or buy their freedom or be released after a period of seven years.( This was known as the "Jubilee principle", a form of which was advocated by Christian and other humanitarian groups as the twenty-first century dawned, to enable economically enslaved nations to have their debts relieved or cancelled.)

One example of a changed life is that of John Newton, who after a career as a slave-trader converted to Christianity and became an Anglican minister. The shame and regret for his former life and gratitude for his salvation was described in his hymn “Amazing Grace”, beloved of Idol auditionees. He also mentored William Wilberforce, who was instrumental in abolishing the British slave trade. Throughout the world today there are Christian groups involved in advocacy and rescue from various forms of slavery.  

Throughout his earthly ministry, Christ demonstrated a deep compassion for suffering humanity. The first recorded message he preached was to reiterate the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61):

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me
because he has annointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."  (Luke 4:18,19, )

Through the Sermon on the Mount, Christ explained principles of living which were radically different to the culture of the day. The gospels record many instances of Him reaching out to those who were marginalised. The values He set to live by are those of love, grace, justice and equality. They are not the principles on which slavery is based.

In a broader sense, without Christ we are all slaves - to sin. We live in a fallen world where the results of human sin are very apparent, both on a global scale and in individual lives.  Christ's message was one of personal transformation of each individual who committed his or her life to Him, and through them, the transformation of the cultures around them.

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