Confronting Modern Slavery: A Sermon Recap
Each Monday, I offer a recap of the previous day’s message. To watch our service, jump over to The Fellowship’s media page.
During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade period of Colonial America, it is estimated there were 12 million slaves. Today, the world has double that number. Estimates range between 27 and 31 million people are held in modern-day slavery. Four of the main types of slavery we encounter in the world today are: domestic servitude/slavery, factory and farm slavery, sex slavery, and child soldier slavery. According to the Not for Sale Campaign, slavery is a $150 billion industry. The A21 Campaign reports the average age of a trafficking victim is 12 and that every 30 seconds, somewhere in the world, a person becomes a victim of slavery. It is a horrific practice that the church must confront.
In 1 Timothy 1:8-10, Paul presents a list of sins that characterize people as rebellious against God. In it, he refers to the “kidnapper” or the slave trader. Any time a person is taken against their will, it is a sin against the very image of God within that person. The early church knew who it was; a people of outcasts. Through them and through us, we are to seek the welfare of those who are powerless.
God issued laws to protect those who lacked power.
There is a misconception that God blatantly approved the brutality of slavery throughout the Bible. The Bible clearly describes slavery as a reality in the ancient world throughout the Old Testament and New Testament times. But nowhere do we find God encouraging what we know as the slave trade from Africa to America. What happens in the modern slave trade has never been approved. Instead, what we find is God issuing protective laws concerning those who sold themselves into servitude and those who were taken captive in war times.
Exodus 20 is the beginning of the Old Testament Law. It is the recording of the Ten Commandments. On its heels, we find that chapter 21 concerns the fair treatment of those who have entered into servitude. Verses 2-4 demand that a Hebrew slave be released in their seventh year and allowed to take his family with him. Verses 5-6 establish a means by which a slave may elect to stay and establish a fair contract with the master. Verses 7-11 set up conditions by which a family can pay off debts with endenturing their children in a manner where they are treated kindly and never sold away.
Most pointedly, verse 16 states: “Whoever kidnaps a person must be put to death, whether he sells him or the person is found in his possession.” The point of the laws was for the protection of the slave/servant. The masters were held to a high standard of care for those who worked and lived in their homes.
We are called to speak up for the powerless.
Proverbs 31:8-9 tell us: “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.” The verses are a reminder the role that the people of faith have in culture. We have immense power and should speak up. One of the primary activities that many modern day abolitionist organizations ask of us is simple: Use your voice. As James 3:18 tells us, “Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” Ours is a mission of delivering peace to those whose lives are in chaos.
Freedom for the slave is the work of a redeeming God.
“What has God done?” Whenever we confront an injustice, the question is asked. Many want to know why God does not just come down to earth and fix it. He has. The first recorded place in Jesus’ ministry where He read the Scriptures is found in Luke 4:16-19.
He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
In one of His first public acts of ministry, Jesus sets the stage that His ministry will be one of giving freedom to the captive. God is in the chain-breaking business. He is not blind or ignorant to the plight of the slave. The death of Christ breaks the power of sin and renews the heart of man. Within His ministry, and thus that of the church, earthly slavery should cease. Jesus came to free us from spiritual slavery to sin and deliver justice to the oppressed.
In the story of Ruth, Boaz creatively used the law to redeem Ruth from an extended life of poverty. Sometimes in our world, we make every injustice into just a matter of prayer. “Making it a matter of prayer” cannot become an excuse for personal inaction. We must act. When a person is held captive or abused, we should learn from the God of redemption and use the power of the state to bring justice by all means necessary. Here are several ways that you can take action.
- Volunteer for an abolition ministry. Start by looking at organizations like Not for Sale, The A21 Campaign, and End Slavery Tennessee.
- Report. If you suspect a person is being held against their will, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888.
- Use www.slaveryfootprint.org to determine how many slaves were possibly involved in providing for the normal things you buy. When I took the analysis, it reported that 46 slaves provided the basics to my life.
- Speak up through social media. Don’t be just a hactivist that posts links to stories. Instead, make it one of many activities to alert the rest of us about the reality of modern-day slavery.
- Write to elected officials that you want action. Use pen, paper, and snail mail. Take the time to craft a letter that is hard to ignore. Hold our elected officials accountable for the work of justice.
- Stop watching porn. Pornography viewing fuels an industry that abuses the captive.
- Supply resources needed to ministries that do rescue work. If we would all give up our $5 frappuccino, mocha, caffeine blast drinks (or whatever other luxury you indulge) then we could supply clothes, food, and supplies to those ministries that rescue slaves.
- Be gospel centered as the work we do must have eternity in mind. We do not rescue slaves because it is a good thing. Every attempt at good reminds me that I only do good by the power of the Holy Spirit. We rescue people on the earth so we can introduce them to the rescue accomplished by Christ for eternity’s sake.