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Slaves in 2013? Ephesians 6.5-9

Put on your thinking cap please.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

I love this radical thought of C.S. Lewis—which in all likelihood, will have to be read several times to be grasped--but bear it in mind now as we consider Paul’s next teaching. He has turned to address slaves and masters. Some may think, ‘how reprehensible—that he would not condemn slavery!’ Lest we forget, Paul himself was imprisoned by the tyranny of Rome as he wrote. He is not looking to do philosophical or political battle on “what should be,” rather Paul is talking to the Christian (perhaps a new convert even) in the various relational roles of life in the first century. He has addressed husbands, wives, children and now slaves and masters. Take a look:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.

Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” 6.5-9

Of course, slavery was reprehensible—in Paul’s day; and it is in ours, too, though it still exists. In my research I have found that there are known to be an estimated 27 million children and adults entrapped in slavery yet today—in Nepal, West African countries, India, Mexico, Pakistan … Click to read:

But that is not the point of this briefing … rather there are two things I should wish us to take from these few verses addressed to slaves and masters:

1 – No matter our work, no matter our role, let us do as Paul suggested, work as unto the Lord. Indeed, may we work with enthusiasm, as though we are working for the Lord rather than for people.

2 – May we be challenged by the notion that what C.S. Lewis wrote is true— there is not a single person we will encounter today who is not immortal. You and I may observe someone and take him to be an illiterate or ignoble plodding sod, but in Heaven he will realize a glorious reward for the way he has loved God in this life. On the other hand, to make Lewis’ point, the person you or I deem to be such a righteous, good person may in fact be bound for the netherworld because his unseen heart and devotion is not tied to Christ’s at all.

Turns out, we are not mere mortals after all; our eternal souls preclude it. So, with our life and breath, ‘to which destiny’ are we helping others along? Ha, now I think some would prefer to go back and just talk about slaves, because that doesn’t really challenge most of us today, does it?

Christine Todd DiGiacomo

Slavery Still Exists
Photographs of human trafficking and enslavement around the world

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