Christians and Slavery
When Christ came to the Earth, slavery had been around for thousands of years. Some people were slaves because they were criminals and slavery was their punishment. Others became slaves because they owed people too much money to ever pay back. And still others were born as slaves. Many people during Jesus’ time believed slaves were not as important as people who were free. They believed slaves were more like animals and were not as valuable as other people.
Jesus’ teachings showed that slaves were just as valuable as other people and should be treated with respect. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus told His followers to do to other people what they would want other people to do to them. That meant they were to treat slaves exactly like they would want to be treated if they were slaves.
When we look at the early Church, we see that the Church obeyed Jesus and treated all people, even slaves, with respect and dignity. The apostle Paul wrote that in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Did Paul mean that everybody looked alike in the Church and that there was no physical difference between men and women? No. He simply meant that anyone could be saved. No group was any more important than any other group. Men were no more important than women. Jews were not more important than Greeks. And free people were not more important than slaves.
In the early Church, slaves could even become elders if they obeyed God. Can you imagine a person who owned slaves meeting with a church where one of his slaves was an elder? You can be sure that such a situation would show that slaves deserved respect just like everyone else.
Since all people are made in God’s image, we are all equally valuable to Him. Through the teachings of Christ, people learned how to treat others, even slaves, just like they would want to be treated. Only Christ’s teachings could have brought about the abolition of slavery that eventually occurred.