Bible Facts: Does Christianity Support Slavery?


Young girl reading her Bible by the sea
Istock Photo

This morning, I woke up to a text in my phone (the picture below) about Christians supporting slavery. My boyfriend sent it to me after he saw a post on Facebook that said Christians support slavery because it says so in the Bible. Lately, my boyfriend has been questioning the faith because so many people are against it and try their hardest to disprove it.

slavery2

Being a Christian and standing up for what you believe in this day and age is difficult. We suffer persecution, hate and blame for believing in the Bible. But it’s no reason to give up hope on the faith. The Bible is ancient and is the most controversial book written. Christianity is largely based on faith, which makes it harder to explain and believe. Most people would rather believe something that they can physically see. Which is why I wrote this post. People like explanations.

Well the scripture that this post was referring to was in Peter:
“1 Peter 2:18-20King James Version (KJV)
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?
but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”
I know that I’m not a perfect Christian to write this nor do I represent it the best like many Christians do. But for some reason, because I chose to believe in Christianity, everyone tries to convince me why I shouldn’t believe in it. This can be a horrible feeling. Here’s what I wrote this morning in response to this text and picture below.
Does The Bible Support Slavery?
A lot of people don’t believe in Christianity because they think that the Bible supports “racism,” “slavery,” “murder,” and “prejudice” because of people who misinterpret the Bible and judge other people’s actions of the past instead of reading what the Bible actually teaches.
I often hear this example of why the Christian faith is bad. But does the Bible actually support slavery?
Slave masters in the past who claimed to be Christians have used the Bible to convince themselves that owning slaves is okay and that “slaves should obey their masters” in the days of owning slaves in America throughout the 17th Century. Unfortunately, Christians have taken verses of scripture out of context to prove owning a slave. A lot of these Christians were not really “born again” but were “adhering to a form of Christianity for traditional or national reasons,” according to “Confound the Critics: Answers for Attacks on Biblical Truths,” by  Bodie Hodge.
What Does the Bible Really Teach?
The Bible says “love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mark 12: 31)  It also teaches that slaves and servants were to be treated with respect and dignity, never mistreated, and as spiritually equal before God (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:11; 4:1). It says though shall not kill. (Exodus 20:13) Unfortunately, some Christians did what wasn’t supported in the Bible. That doesn’t mean that all of Christianity is bad.
Additionally, the word slaves today means “harsh “race-based” slavery that was common by Europeans toward those of African descent.” In this scripture 1 Peter 2:18-20, Peter was writing from his times based on what was going on in his times. Slaves meaning servants who worked as household slaves. Servants referred to slaves or hired workers i.e. similar to butlers and maids that we have today, except they were usually owned by another person. (The original Bible was written in Hebrew and translated into English.)
greek-hebrew-table
This picture is from Answers in Genesis.org
According to Got Questions.org:
“The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was based more on economics; it was a matter of social status. People sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves to have all their needs provided for by their masters.”
Some people could save their money and buy their freedom, but many didn’t because their lifestyle was better than it would be if they were on their own. In this verse, Peter was giving pastoral advice for people in this situation. There was nothing he could do to free them. His advice was to work within the system and do your best for a greater purpose — freedom.
“It is far better to deal with your situation constructively then to cause more unrest. The problem was even the best-treated servants were somehow subjugated to prejudice and in an unfortunate situation.”
Peter encouraged the slaves to obey and allow their virtue to win others. People who mistreated, abused or killed their workers were “misrepresenting” Christianity. If you go by what the Bible actually says, it teaches that salves and servants were to be treated with respect and dignity, never mistreated, and as spiritually equal before God (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:11; 4:1). Peter is not condoning slavery, just encouraging others to live right and reform it by good character and the Gospel (Deut 24:1-4; Matt. 19:8; Eph. 6:5; Philemon). Slaves were also encouraged to seek their freedom by all legal means (1 Cor. 7:21-24).
“Conscious of God means submission; we should focus on our duty and respect authority because it is for God. This passage is about being a good worker as our work reflects God (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25; 1Tim. 6:1-2; 1, Tim. 6:1-2;.”
You can use this passage today in your ordinary life. Work hard at your jobs and obey your bosses. Do work unto the Lord! As Christians, we should work hard to represent Christ. That’s all that this scripture means.
If you have any Bible based questions or anything to add, please feel free to comment. I will do my best to respond. Have a great day!
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