Debunking Lies About the Bible (Part 5): Slavery in the New Testament

Barb Wire

There seems to be no end to the blasphemous promenade of provocateurs who eagerly line up to take their turn at heckling and shouting down Bible-believers to promote their own self-serving social, legal, or political agenda. In the previous chapter, we started with the ringleader at the top of this unenviable list of con artists, President Barack Obama himself and his deceitful contentions about slavery in the Bible, but as we shall unfortunately see, the president does not have a corner on the market when it comes to spouting off negative and biting critiques of the Word of God. Securely ensconced within their echo chamber, a veritable cast of characters is quite deserving of dishonorable mention.

During a 2011 interview with the Windy City Times, a pro-LGBT Chicago newspaper, CNN’s openly-homosexual African-American anchor Don Lemon argued that the same Bible which was used to “keep us as slaves” is now being employed against homosexuality and homosexual “marriage”. Lemon whined, “We [in the African American community] have, in many ways, been a victim of the Scriptures and theology that have been used to keep us as slaves . . . It’s been ingrained [in] us, and now we use it against gay [sic] people without thinking about things objectively.”

For the record, that was not the first time Lemon spoke dismissively of God’s Word. He also claimed back in June of the same year that the literal interpretation of the Bible is “naive, even dangerous.”

Dan Savage, the sex advice columnist and “gay” activist who is better known for his side-gig as an anti-Christian bully, has likewise chimed in on numerous occasions, “The Bible, if it got something as easy and obvious as slavery wrong, what are the odds that it got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? I put those odds at about 100 percent.”

Raging Atheist Sam Harris misinformed his readers as well with this inflammatory blurb from his book Letter to a Christian Nation, “Consult the Bible, and you will discover that the creator of the universe clearly expects us to keep slaves.”

And early in 2013, during a broadcast of his HBO show Real Time, political commentator and host Bill Maher along with his panel of guests debated their thoughts about the Bible, asserting that God is “pro-slavery,” “homophobic,” and a “psychotic mass murderer.” Maher was his typical irreverent self.

Included on the HBO panel was liberal minister Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners Magazine and spiritual adviser to Barack Obama. During the discussion, Wallis contended that the Bible mostly focuses on taking care of the poor and disadvantaged.

“But you’re cherry picking the good parts,” Maher interjected, “Explain to me how a book that is written by God, who is perfect, there’s so much—it’s pro-slavery, pro-polygamy, it’s homophobic…”

The unfiltered virulence of these Leftist ideologues represents the modern embodiment of those that the Apostle Peter described as “ignorant and unstable people [who] distort … [the] Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16). “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned,” Peter continued, “Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless” (3:17).

It’s very interesting to note, however, that during my recent involvement in the Pro-Traditional Marriage Rally in Indianapolis on Feb. 10, 2014 (for more details, see these articles here and here), I, a white man, was clearly in the minority. The predominant portion of those gathered were local pastors and parishioners from black churches in Indianapolis and the surrounding metropolitan area, who would adamantly disagree with the aforementioned offensive assessments of the Bible. Although it is true that the Bible has unfortunately been abused as a defense for slavery in the United States, the Bible has also been more accurately used to denounce slavery. The Abolition and Civil Rights Movements, as discussed later in this column, were inherently Christian and biblically based.

There is no shortage of Bible burning God-haters, and slavery is a very popular subject for liberals to hone in on. However, as we saw in my last column about slavery in the Old Testament and will now further demonstrate in the New Testament, God definitely does not endorse slavery. To incorrectly contend that the Bible does, in fact, support slavery is to reveal either questionable motives or an embarrassingly poor grasp of its teachings. In an effort to clear up such confusion, we will next move on to consider the tenets of the New Testament, where the case against slavery is even more compelling. Human trafficking simply cannot be squared with biblical teaching.

During the time of Jesus, slavery was still a very common practice so the New Testament picks up right where the Old Testament leaves off. It is therefore extremely helpful at this point to begin with an accurate understanding of slavery in the First Century A.D. Pastor and author Timothy Keller explains, “While much can be said about this subject, it is important to remember that slavery in the Greco-Roman world was not the same as the New World institution that developed in the wake of the African slave trade. Slavery in Paul’s time was not race-based and was seldom lifelong. It was more like what we would call indentured servitude.”

Murray J. Harris, historian and professor emeritus of New Testament exegesis and theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, provides additional insights in his book Slave of Christ. “In the First Century, slaves were not distinguishable from free persons by race, by speech or by clothing,” Dr. Harris writes, “they were sometimes more highly educated than their owners and held responsible professional positions; some persons sold themselves into slavery for economic or social advantage; they could reasonably hope to be emancipated after ten to twenty years of service or by their thirties at the latest; they were not denied the right of public assembly and were not socially segregated (at least in the cities); they could accumulate savings to buy their freedom; their natural inferiority was not assumed.”

Into this cultural setting, the Bible introduced a key principle that clearly established the intrinsic, God-given worth of every human being regardless of race, gender, class, condition, color, etc. It also emphasized equality in social status, personal dignity, civil rights and legal protections. For example, Gal. 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian Church, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11). Each of these scripture citations sounds like an early version of an equal employment opportunity statement, and, by the way, both of them specifically mention slaves. Such passages basically indicate that fairness, justice, and equal treatment were, and still are, the normative default mode for promoting unity within the Christian community. In God’s eyes, any such external and/or uncontrollable differences that have the potential to divide people in the church should be overcome with the perfect love of Christ. Obviously, the Church in its infancy could hardly challenge the entire economic and social structure of the larger Greco-Roman world, so it subversively worked within the system, setting in motion the principles of liberation and egalitarianism that would eventually lead to slavery’s long-awaited decline, first within the Christian population and then progressively throughout the rest of the world.

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First of all, in the New Testament, there are separate instructions given to both Christian slaves (whose masters are not Christians) and Christian slaveholders themselves. Therefore, let’s begin by considering the directives that are specifically intended for Christian slaves. 1 Timothy 6:1, Eph. 6:5-8, Col. 3:22, Titus 2:9-10, and 1 Peter 2:18 each teach slaves to respect, obey, and serve their masters wholeheartedly. Although some will rashly jump to the erroneous conclusion that these references represent God’s tacit approval of the oppressive practice of human trafficking, none of these texts remotely contain any statement in support of slavery per se. These commands do, however, specifically indicate that God expects the slave, and any Christian for that matter, to demonstrate a Christian witness that is above reproach, especially when under duress. Such guidelines are envisioned as a fulfillment of the biblical mandate to unconditionally love one’s enemies and persecutors (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). And for a slave, no one would more clearly personify the role of an enemy than their slave master. As everyone knows, it is very easy to love those who are kind and love you in return (Luke 6:32), but when you demonstrate Christian compassion in spite of adverse conditions or harsh treatment, it really does cause people to take notice and typically has a much greater spiritual impact upon non-believers. Therefore, the overarching purpose is expressed in Titus 2:9-10, which instructs a slave to respect their master “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (vs. 10). In other words, the captive laborer’s goal was to attract and win their master to the gospel/Lord, and then, as a result, to possibly obtain their freedom, exactly as it occurred in the case of Philemon and Onesimus (discussed below). In fact, 1 Cor. 7:21 states, “If you can gain your freedom, do so,” and then just two verses later, the Apostle Paul further warns believers against ever becoming slaves in the first place (vs. 23). These verses constitute the practical application of the apostle’s inspired declaration of God’s sublime ideal, which is that all people should be free from every form of bondage. After all, it was Jesus himself who declared that he came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18).

In Lee Daniel’s The Butler (2013), there is one moment that really stands out. It is the dramatized scene that takes place in a room at the Lorraine Motel with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Nelsan Ellis) and several of his aids. Dr. King asks Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo), the eldest son of the movie’s main character, what his father does for a living, and he replies with sheepish embarrassment that his father is a butler.             

“Black domestic workers,” Dr. King tells Louis, “have played an important role in the struggle for civil rights.” At first, Louis assumes that this is meant as mockery, but King continues, “Maids, butlers, nannies and other domestics have defied racist stereotypes by being trustworthy, hardworking and loyal in maintaining other people’s households and raising other people’s children, they have gradually broken down hardened and hateful attitudes. Their apparent subservience is also quietly subversive.

Did you catch that? What often appears as subservience (or subordination) is actually quite subversive. That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he instructed slaves to utilize their untarnished character and commendable obedience as their most subversive weapon of defiance in the eventual defeat of oppression. Such a statement is as provocative as it is potent; as trying as it is true; as demanding as it is daring. In other words, Paul was employing a more passive aggressive approach to sabotaging the odious institution of slavery.

By way of a similar illustration, the movie 42 presents Hollywood’s notable depiction of Jackie Robinson’s historic breaking of the color barrier in Major League baseball. On August 28, 1945, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the unconventional General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, boldly signed Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), who had formerly been playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro League. Robinson thus became the first African American to play professionally in the Major Leagues. Anticipating the racist onslaught that would follow such an unprecedented and daring decision, Rickey initially met privately with Robinson to discuss the difficult challenges he would invariably face both on and off the field from players and fans alike. He also outlined his expectations regarding Robinson’s appropriate reaction to the blatant displays of bigotry which were bound to arise.

At this first meeting, Robinson asked Rickey, “You want a player that doesn’t have the guts to fight back?”

“No. No.” countered Rickey. “I want a player who has the guts not to fight back. People aren’t going to like this. They’re going to do anything to get you to react. Follow a curse with a curse and they’ll hear only yours. Follow a blow with a blow and they’ll say the negro lost his temper; that the negro does not belong. Your enemy will be out in force and you cannot meet him on his own low ground. We win with hitting, running, fielding—only that. We win only if the world is convinced of two things: That you are a fine gentleman, and a great ball player. Like our Savior, you’ve got to have the guts to turn the other cheek. Can you do it?”

Robinson unhesitatingly asserted, “You give me a uniform; you give me a number on my back; and I’ll give you the guts.”

Does this classic exchange between two baseball hall of famers even remotely imply that Branch Rickey sanctioned the overt bigotry and discrimination which was rampant throughout America and the Major Leagues? Absolutely not! Rather, both he and Robinson were Christians who understood that the principles of Jesus and the Bible, when strategically employed, would certainly erode the entrenched racism that plagued our nation at the time. Robinson subsequently followed Rickey’s sage advice and ultimately paved the way for future generations of African Americans to play Major League baseball. Likewise, despite what critics may say to the contrary, the Apostle Paul’s instructions (1 Timothy 6:1, Eph. 6:5-8, Col. 3:22, Titus 2:9-10, and 1 Peter 2:18) should never be misconstrued as the insidious endorsement of slavery, but these five biblical passages instead describe the subversive means by which the slave trade could be undermined and eradicated. Sometimes the best way to defeat an opponent is not by brute force, but by thoroughly proving them wrong.

For those who still don’t understand, what alternative did the Apostle Paul really have? If he had told them to blatantly disobey and rebel against their non-Christian masters, they most likely would have experienced harsh retaliation by being beaten, abused, or worse, killed. The carnage and disastrous results of Spartacus’ slave rebellion during the First Century B.C. was most certainly still a part of their collective consciousness (glamorized Hollywood dramatizations notwithstanding). In addition to risking serious harm, a disobedient Christian slave was also abandoning the principle of unconditional love and the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31), which were and still remain so immensely instrumental in the transformation of a sinful world for Christ.

Furthermore, under certain circumstances, a servant might prefer to remain in the service of their master due to poor economic conditions or limited job opportunities.  So, instead of demanding that all slaves be immediately released, they retained the personal discretion to remain in the same station of life due to financial necessity. Otherwise, it would essentially be the equivalent of throwing your slaves out into the streets where they could become destitute and be reduced to a life of begging. They didn’t have any governmental safety nets or unemployment insurance, and life was considerably more difficult during the First Century. It is important to realize that a former slave did not always have the kind of employment options that we take for granted, and not all servanthood arrangements were abusive or exploitative in nature.

Next, we will consider the biblical instructions that are given to the Christian slaveholder in the NT, and we will begin by looking at perhaps the most difficult. In Col. 4:1, the Apostle Paul commanded masters to provide their slaves “with what is right and fair, because you know that you have a Master in heaven.” While some scholars have favorably emphasized the “right and fair” treatment of slaves, others have been quick to criticize the Apostle Paul, in this instance, for not adamantly issuing a biblical edict mandating that all slaves be immediately set free. There are several reasonable possibilities for this fact, but we’ll only consider some of the most likely ones. To begin with, as also alluded to above, a slave did not always want to depart from their master’s estate for personal reasons [i.e.: the slave loved his master (Ex. 21:5)], and/or they were not always able to leave due to financial constraints or other economic considerations. Legal obligations were often another factor to keep in mind as well. For instance, a laborer might still be under contract or have unsettled debts as an indentured servant. As Romans 13:8 plainly states, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

Former slave Booker T. Washington, the highly distinguished African-American educator, author, orator, and presidential advisor at the turn of 20th Century, recounted a similar scenario with a profound sense of easily discernible admiration. As depicted in his acclaimed autobiography Up From Slavery, Dr. Washington experienced an unexpected encounter with a fellow free black man from Virginia. He described their memorable meeting in the following way:

“I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom he pleased.

“Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some three hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, this black man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands.

“In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not [legally] have to pay his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise.”

The best reason, however, for not ordering that a Christian slaveholder emancipate their slaves is clearly illustrated in the life of an early believer named Philemon of Colossae, who had a slave named Onesimus. As the book of Philemon indicates, Onesimus sought refuge with the Apostle Paul after having stolen something from Philemon (1:18). During his time with the Apostle Paul, Onesimus was converted to Christianity. Roman law dictated that an individual could be put to death for such an offense, but the Apostle Paul requested his freedom, pardon, and promised to reimburse whatever Onesimus still owed Philemon (1:18). Paul specifically exhorted Philemon to welcome Onesimus “no longer as a slave,” but “as a dear brother” (Philemon 1:16). Since any Christian action is best performed and most meaningful when it’s done in devoted and voluntary obedience, not as a forced compulsory act, the Apostle Paul stated, “I could be bold and order you [acknowledging his authority and God’s perfect will] to do what you ought to do [indicating the moral imperative to set Onesimus free], yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love” (vss. 8-9). Moreover, the Apostle Paul also expressed that he was “confident of [Philemon’s] obedience” and sends Philemon an advance commendation for doing “even more than I, [Paul], ask” (vs. 21). There is absolutely no doubt that these were clear instructions to set Onesimus free. In the end, Onesimus voluntarily submitted himself to Philemon by returning to his obligations, and Philemon, in turn, submitted to Onesimus by setting him free. In other words, they were both willing to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). Let me further emphasize this crucial point — it was done out of reverence for God, not out of an empty sense of obligatory capitulation; nor was it an action performed only in a perfunctory manner. Since coerced compliance does not produce genuine obedience or a godly life, Paul further expounded upon his unwillingness to infringe upon the free moral agency that is crucial to all Christian decision-making, “I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary” (vs. 14). Philemon ultimately forgave Onesimus’ debt/theft just as Christ had initially absolved him of his own sin-debt (vs. 19). Such a reciprocal approach was one that truly benefited both the slave and his former owner. The two men were gloriously reconciled, and each experienced the fullest spiritual advantage of that which was by far the superior objective at the root of these biblical instructions. What would have normally been characterized as an intractable situation was thoroughly, sincerely resolved. Onesimus eventually made the most of his freedom by later becoming an influential church leader as the Bishop of Ephesus. And this incident provides further insight as to why the liberation of slaves was not absolutely commanded in Col. 4:1. 

The Apostle Paul was not a politician, a Roman official, or any type of public figure. He had neither the power, clout nor the leverage to change the culture in one fell swoop. As James D. Agresti puts it, in a May 2, 2012 American Thinker article:

“The apostle Paul sent to churches and individuals various letters that became a significant part of the New Testament. In these letters, Paul makes several references to slavery, such as one in the book of Ephesians, in which Paul tells slaves to be obedient to their masters.”

“At first glance, one might think this passage is supportive of slavery. However, the same passage also instructs masters not to threaten their slaves and to treat them ‘in the same way’ slaves are to treat their masters. How could the institution of slavery exist under such guidelines? The answer is that it can’t. So, why doesn’t Paul directly tell masters to set their slaves free?”

“This is where historical context becomes important. The Roman historian Suetonius recorded that in the era when Jesus was born, the emperor Augustus enacted ‘many obstacles to either the partial or complete emancipation of slaves.’ Thus, instead of calling for the release of slaves that would have resulted in a fruitless conflict with the Roman Empire, Paul undercut the institution of slavery by advancing values that are irreconcilable with it.”

In 1 Tim. 1:9-11, “slave traders” are incorporated into a list of “the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious.” Without a doubt, God very clearly condemns the entire evil institution of slavery. While some homosexuals attempt to distort what the Bible says about slavery to dismiss the “good book” entirely, the interesting thing is that in this exact same passage from the book of First Timothy, homosexuality is included in its catalog of sinful activities, right alongside slave trading. The point being that a sin is a sin is a sin …

Despite all of the heated rhetoric to the contrary, the Bible from beginning to end abhors both racism and slavery. In the words of the Apostle Peter, “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35).  The Apostle Peter also referred to slavery as “unjust suffering” (1 Pet. 2:19). And in the book of Revelation, as the Apostle John makes abundantly clear, God will pronounce final condemnation upon the evil world systems that perpetuate human trafficking (Rev. 18:13). The New Testament effectively established a permanent moratorium on the slave trade, leaving absolutely no doubt whatsoever as to the overall thrust of the divinely inspired Word of God.

This having all been said, many continue to conveniently ignore that the Abolitionist Movement and the later Civil Rights Movement were led by Christians and ministers who read and recited from the same Bible that we have today. The positive influence and the remarkable power of Christianity in propelling each of these important reform efforts forward are irrefutable. The unquestionable fact is that the Abolitionist Movement was at its very core a Christian movement, and the historical registry of its prominent leaders and organizers reads like a Who’s Who of Christian ministers, speakers, politicians, and authors whose selfless efforts are well chronicled. This pantheon of Christian champions included William Wilberforce, William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Clarkson, John Wesley, Henry Ward Beecher, John Newton, James Ramsey, James Stephen, Elizabeth Heyrick, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Finney, Granville Sharp, John Greenleaf Whittier, the Clapham Sect of the Church of England, the Quakers, the Moravians, and many, many others. Furthermore, it was precisely the moral arguments from Christianity that were the foundational bedrock of the Abolitionists’ and the Civil Rights leaders’ efforts and exhortations. Abolitionism was also a central feature of the message of the First and Second Great Awakenings, two remarkable periods of Christian revival in the original Thirteen Colonies that occurred from 1731-1755 and 1790-1840, respectively. In sociologist Rodney Stark’s book For the Glory of God, the official start of the American Abolitionist Movement is cited as 1754 and is credited to the more than capable leadership of John Woolman, an itinerate Quaker preacher. His tract, Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes, began with Matthew 25:40—“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Yet, the brunt of the social shock waves of Abolitionism would not be fully felt until the horrific carnage of the American Civil War. Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza made this  powerful observation during a heated debate about his movie America on MSNBC’s the Ed Show with host Ed Schultz, “Slavery was a universal institution, but only one nation, America, fought a war to end it.” And the total deadly aftermath of the War Between the States was at least 620,000 casualties , making it our nation’s bloodiest conflict.

Usually, the predictable response is that there were also many other “Christian” ministers and slaveholders who also utilized the Bible to support this sinister system, but they obviously had ulterior motives that undeniably blinded their hearts and minds. As has been definitively proven, however, when you look at the Bible as a whole and do not take individual verses out of context to be mishandled as a pretext (and your understanding is not darkened by a focus on self-aggrandizement and economic exploitation, as was the case for those who supported slavery), then there is positively only one conclusion that anyone can reasonably arrive at: The Bible does not sanction slavery and God condemns it in no uncertain terms as one of the most vile schemes to ever emerge straight from the pit of hell. The demise of American slavery also brought to great fruition the principle contained in Jesus’ Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

What is even more noteworthy is the fact that there were many Christian abolitionists who were also African Americans. The same was also true of the later Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s, in which the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was the main driving force behind ending segregation and establishing black civil rights. Then how come these abolitionist and civil rights heroes didn’t view the Bible as endorsing slavery or racism? Were social reformers Frederick Douglass and Richard Allen, both former slaves and Methodist ministers, unaware of the Bible’s “approval” of slavery? Was the devout Christian Harriet Tubman biblically ignorant of this inconvenient “truth”? Or was the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. just expediently sidestepping the “fact” that the Bible condoned slavery and racism? The answer to all of these questions, and others like them, is a resounding and emphatic affirmation of the fact that each of these individuals were surely knowledgeable about, and well versed, in exactly what the Bible actually stated and supported. And what they all recognized with unwavering certainty was that when you look at the full panoply of Scripture, it is abundantly clear that God has never, and will never, sanction slavery or racial inequality. The Bible as written is, without a doubt, a radically anti-slavery document.

As several of America’s most eminent historical figures have duly acknowledged, true Christianity is the only firm foundation upon which any free republic must be built and sustained. It is only through the corruption of Christ’s glorious principles that the evil of slavery is enabled to emerge and flourish. “I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ,” Rev. Frederick Douglass passionately professed, “I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial, and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”

President Abraham Lincoln likewise waxed eloquent with his concurring and compelling statements on the subject:

“These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.” (Emphasis mine) — Speech at Lewistown, Illinois, on August 17, 1858

“To read in the Bible, as the word of God himself, that ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’ [Gen. 3:19] and to preach there from that, ‘In the sweat of other mans′ faces shalt thou eat bread,’ to my mind can scarcely be reconciled with honest sincerity.” — Reply to Delegation of Baptists on May 30, 1864

In short, both Douglass and Lincoln, those preeminent luminaries of liberty orbiting amid untold others around the scriptural star of our supreme Savior, employed enthralling theological language and grand principles to express God’s unmitigated condemnation of any nation that establishes a cruel system of human oppression. It was only through the abuse of the Bible that so-called (or recalcitrant) Christians rationalized slavery, racism and segregation whereas it was by a proper use of the Bible that true Christians opposed these systemic evils with a fiery zeal. Consequently, Christians can oppose homosexual practice and same-sex marriage while at the same time affirming the infinite value of the members of the LGBT community, who are created in God’s image, and are the objects of God’s infinite love. However, while we love the homosexual, we must never condone or celebrate their sins or any other sins for that matter. We are called to strongly attest to the omnipotent power of God to change and transform anyone, including those who vigorously shake their fists in God’s face .

The Lord is not only the great liberator from earthly shackles, He is also our spiritual redeemer through Christ, who came to set free both the bodies and souls of humanity. 2 Peter 2:19 states that “a person is a slave to whatever has mastered them,” and this includes all temptations, habits, urges, desires, besetting sins, past traumas, inclinations, immoral predispositions, and destructive “orientations.” The Bible pronounces the sweeping truth that there is complete and all-encompassing freedom and wholeness available to everyone in Christ. It is a testament to the incomprehensible grace and love of God. As John 8:31, 36 so powerfully reminds us, “The truth will set you free … [and] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Our Heavenly Father is the Great Emancipator! You can be delivered! There is always the hope of escape from the bondage of sin’s tyranny (1 Cor. 10:13).  

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Jeff Allen is both a senior editor and columnist for BarbWire. He also serves as senior pastor in a mainline Christian church in Indiana. He is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. Jeff is involved in several community ministries.

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