Christianity’s Contributions: Slavery abolished (Part 3)

Thanks to the influence of the Christian faith, slavery was abolished in cultures throughout the world.  The seeds of this idea were planted in the New Testament.  Remember that slavery in the Roman empire was not the same as slavery in the New World.  Slaves did the jobs of professionals today–teachers, actors, secretaries, and the like.  In addition, freedom could be earned through reward or purchased through money.  Slaves at this time received a small subsistence allowance.  (See Acts 22:22-29, 1 Corinthians 7:20-24, and Philemon 12-21 for examples of these ways to earn freedom.)  It was not a lifelong institution that people associate with the pre-Civil War South.

In Ephesians 6:5-8 and Colossians 3:22-25, slaves were commanded to remember their Ultimate Master in heaven, God.  Because of God, they were to obey their earthly masters with respect, fear, and sincerity.  Slaves were also commanded to work hard even when unsupervised.  Yet these books also have directives for masters.

In Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 4:1, masters are not to threaten their slaves and are to provide fairly for them.  Both of these commands come in light of the authority of God.  But even more freedom than the Roman empire provided was found in the Christian Church.

Paul says that are “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free…for you are all one in Christ” in Galatians 3:28.  Contrast this attitude of slaves as worthy of respect as a fellow believer in Christ with Aristotle (384-322 BC): “a slave is a living tool…there can be no friendship with a slave as a slave.”  Because of the Bible’s teaching that all are one in Christ, the 2nd & 3rd century Christians freed their slaves.  However, some didn’t either through ignorance or influence of the greater Roman culture.

Due to the growth of the Christian church and its influence in culture, soon others would free slaves.  More on that in the next blog.

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