It’s clear that the writers of the New Testament saw nothing contradictory whatsoever between following Jesus and upholding the culture’s position on slavery.
There is no command, no teaching, not even a hint among the New Testament writers that slavery was an evil institution to be abolished.
Quite the contrary…
Slaves were encouraged to accept their lot in life…
1 Corinthians 7:20-23:
20 Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For those who were slaves when called to faith in the Lord are the Lord’s freed people; similarly, those who were free when called are Christ’s slaves. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, all of you, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation in which God called you.
Slaves were taught to obey their masters in everything…
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
Slaves were taught to endure beatings joyfully…
1 Peter 2:18-21
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
The entire witness of the New Testament leads us to one inescapable conclusion: God doesn’t have that big of a problem with slavery; otherwise the early church leaders would have gone ballistic over it.
150 years ago pastors used these very verses to justify slavery.
What if 150 years from now people look back on modern-day evangelicals and think the same thing about the way we view homosexuality?
Does the Bible give us unambiguous direction on the issue? Certainly. Homosexuality is a sin. No issue is any more clear in scripture.
But 150 years ago people used the unambiguous teaching of the Bible to justify their belief that slavery was okay.
150 years later we think, Who cares what the Bible teaches on slavery? It’s wrong. Not because of what the Bible teaches, but because of everything we know to be true about life as Christians.
Abolitionists fought against the evils of slavery in spite of what the Bible taught.
And they were right.
No Christian today denies that.
What if it’s the same situation with homosexuality?
I have unashamedly upheld the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin for 25 years of ministry. But what if 150 years from now Christians look back on me and think the same thing that we think about pastors who 150 years ago taught slavery was okay?
I haven’t changed my position in the least. I’m just asking the question.
What do you think?
Sign up HERE to get my articles delivered straight to your inbox.