Does God condone slavery?

The history of the “discovery” and settlement of North America celebrates great triumphs, but it also records dreadful abuses. Bringing Old World diseases to the New World killed off countless Native Americans. Periodic abrogation of treaties made Native Americans permanently suspect and scorn the integrity of the federal government. But the worst of all abuses was the widespread practice of race-based slavery.

Earnest Christians in slaveholding areas tried to justify slavery from passages in the Bible that urged slaves to work hard for their masters. Paul even wrote the epistle of Philemon to try to bring about reconciliation between a master and a runaway. But the fact that the apostles and missionaries in the New Testament era encountered slavery everywhere in the Roman Empire did not constitute divine approval. They were just helping new Christians deal with their reality, not approving of the ownership of human beings.

The fact is, God has always hated the slave trade. Listen to this list of examples of human rebellion against God’s will: “We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers” (1 Timothy 1:9,10).

The slave trade continues today in various parts of the world. God hates it still.

Pastor Mark Jeske brought the good news of Jesus Christ to viewers of Time of Grace for 18 years. He is currently the senior pastor at St. Marcus Church, a thriving multicultural congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mark is the author of several books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics. He and his wife, Carol, have four adult children.


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