The fight to end slavery goes on

By Rev. Paul  Steele

Bethlehem Church

Slavery.

For most Americans that word conjures up images of African-Americans in chains, Abraham Lincoln, Confederate Flags, and the Civil War. As a country, we recognize that slavery is a ugly reality in our heritage.

What is overlooked is that slavery did not end with the Civil War. That evil practice may no longer be legal in the United States, but it continues to be a reality throughout the world. Yes, even in our country.

It is estimated that there are 45 million people held in slavery today. Of those 45 million people, 1 in 4 is a child. It is also thought that there are as many as 11.6 million slaves held as part the global sex trade.

In some parts of the world, the slavery is an epidemic. In India, every 8 minutes a child goes missing. Half of those children are never found, and are believed to be forced into a life of slavery.

Slavery is an evil that continues to plague our world.

The roots of anti-slavery can be found in the Bible. The Apostle Paul, lived in a culture that accepted slavery as a way of life. In the New Testament book of Colossians he wrote: “Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.” (NLT)

This verse, and others similar to it, began to plant the seed of anti-slavery in the minds of people. Committed Christians, reflecting on these words, realized that to be fair and just to another human being meant you could not own them as property.

The first sign we are able to see that these seeds Paul planted were germinating is in 379 CE during Lent. Gregory of Nyssa preached a sermon condemning the institution of slavery. A person will search in vain to find a similar sentiment expressed at that time in the ancient world.

It was a slow process, but as Christians meditated on the teachings of Christ and the teaching of Paul they began to realize that this culturally acceptable institution was not acceptable to God. Eventually people like William Wilberforce, who were influenced by this vein of Christian thinking, appeared on the scene and fought to end the practice of slavery. This is a fight that continues today.

The Free Methodist Church was founded on the belief that slavery is wrong and that each person should be free. That is why on September 24 at 10:30 am Bethlehem Church will be participating in Freedom Sunday, a national effort to raise awareness of the problem of slavery in our world. Bethlehem welcomes anyone who wants to discover what can be done to join us on Sept. 24.

The Rev. Paul Steele is the senior pastor nat Bethlehem Church in Austin, Minnesota. The church can be contacted at 507-433-3705. It’s website is bethlehemfree.org.

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