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I got this question on Jesus and slavery. Esther Dhanraj and Sam Harris both criticized Jesus for not condemning slavery. Why didn’t Jesus condemn slavery in the New Testament?
Excellent questions. To understand the context of these question, first watch the video in which Esther Dhanraj, Vibhuti Jha, and Sanjay Dixit discuss Hinduphobia in America. I gave the link below. I am going to answer the charges of all of these individuals in this video.
Esther said, there is slavery in the Bible. Yes, there is. The Bible describes the human condition. In the Bible, God put regulations on how to treat a slave. In the ancient times, slavery was universal. Without slavery, society would not function. The slave system gradually transformed to today’s employer-employee system. The United States abolished slavery in 1865 using the 13th Amendment. Overnight, all slaves in America became tenant farmers. The slaves did not disappear. They became tenant farmers. They were in involuntary servitude. Now, they came to voluntary servitude. If you have a job today, you are in voluntary servitude. The line between voluntary and involuntary servitude is thin. If a dictator takes over this nation, and abolish the 13th Amendment, we will all become slaves. God told us that all human beings are created in his image. Remembering this truth, we should treat each other with love and respect.
Esther said, Bible says, ‘don’t covet your neighbor’s slave, donkey or wife. So, they are the same’. The Bible is not equating a slave with a donkey. It is actually Hinduism that puts human beings on par with animals. The Bible gives unique dignity to human beings. They are the only beings created in the image of God. Also, God did not create slavery. The Bible says that God created one couple, Adam and Eve. We are all children of Adam and Eve. The Bible says that God created human beings in his image. Every one shares this image of God in equal essence. White or black or brown or yellow: they all share this image of God. They did not come from different parts of God. In Hinduism, Brahmins come from the mouth of god while Shudras come from his feet. We don’t see that in the Bible. God created one couple, Adam and Eve and we are all children of that first couple. Yes, we all look different but our differences came due to genetic, geographic and sociological factors.
When humanity disobeyed God, the human race had fallen into sin and its manifestations. Human beings invented slavery, not God. Human beings invented prostitution, not God. Watch the movie Ten Commandments. Moses goes to visit the people of Israel while they were enslaved in Egypt. He tells them about God. They do not believe in God or in Moses. They ask, Who is this God? He replies, The God of Abraham, the Almighty God. They ask, ‘If our god is almighty, why does he leave us in bondage?’ In response,
he makes two great statements:
‘God made men and men made slaves’
‘He will choose the hour of our freedom and the man who will deliver us’.
Those two statements encapsulate how Christianity deals with slavery.
First, God made men and men made slaves: God did not create slavery, human beings created it.
Second, ‘God will choose the hour of our freedom and the man who will deliver us’. Jesus often says, ‘My time has not come’. God has a plan. Jesus has a time table. He will choose the hour of our freedom.
The Bible’s central message is redemption. First we see this in the Old Testament. The Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt. They were praying for liberty. And God sent Moses to give them liberty. That is the reason why Martin Luther King Jr frequently quoted from Moses and the Old Testament. Moses’ ‘Promised Land’ frequently appears in his speeches. President Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States recently wrote a book entitled A Promised Land. Where did he get it? From Moses. From the Bible.
That is the hope Christianity offers. God has appointed the hour of freedom for every slave. He also chose the man, a Savior, who will deliver us.
Esther Dhanraj said, ‘Jesus did not condemn slavery’. That is true. Slavery was universal in Jesus’s day and it would be very relevant to condemn slavery. Who are the spiritual slaves? All human beings. Every one of us was or is a slave to sin. Jesus’s primary mission is to liberate us from spiritual slavery. He is like Moses. Moses went to liberate people from physical slavery but Jesus came to liberate people from spiritual slavery. Physical slavery is a manifestation of spirial slavery.
Read John chapter 8, verse 34. Jesus said, ‘Everyone who sins is a slave to sin’. Jesus clearly told us that we are slaves to sin. Slavery is a sin of greed. The master himself is a slave to the sin of greed. If God can liberate you from the sin of greed, then you are no longer looking to enslave other people. Sex outside heterosexual marriage is a sin of lust. Rape is a sin of lust. If God can liberate you from the sin of lust, then you are no longer looking to enslave a woman. Pedophilia is a sin of lust. If God can liberate you from that sin of lust, you are no longer looking to abuse a boy or a girl. We have people who are slaves to alcohol, slaves to drugs, slaves to pornography. They all need Jesus to liberate them from that slavery.
Hinduism says we are gods. It does not say we are sinners. So, it is unable to see the evil of slavery. ‘If you are a slave, that is your karma. Don’t blame anyone’. But in Christianity, there is no karma. We are slaves to sin. Jesus came to liberate us from this slavery to sin. That is the story of redemption. He died on the cross to purchase us with his own blood. A slave can be liberated only by paying a ransom. In the same way, Jesus Christ liberated us by paying a ransom. A ransom with his own precious blood. Once you are liberated from the slavery of sin, you are liberated from the social manifestations of sins. Physical slavery, prostitution, pornography, violence, gambling, homosexuality, pedophilia, transgenderism….they are all manifestations of our sinful alienation from God.
So, that truth is very important to understand. When Jesus looks at humanity, he says, you are all slaves to sin. Every one of you is a slave to sin. ‘Everyone who sins is a slave to sin’. If you are living in sin, you are a slave to sin. Jesus came to give you freedom and deliverance from that sin. We can abolish physical slavery, but the master and slave are still slaves to their sins. They both go to hell if they die in their sins without getting saved by the blood of Jesus. That is why Jesus would not address the problem of physical slavery. Had Jesus went around condemning slavery in the Roman empire, most people would have said, ‘I am not a master nor am I a slave. So, Jesus’s message is not for me’. But Jesus wanted every human being to listen to him because every human being is a slave to sin. Once we recognize our spiritual slavery and come out of the sin of greed and of lust, we would not enslave any human being. That is how Jesus addresses the problem of slavery.
When Jesus told them, ‘Everyone who sins is a slave to sin’, his audience were outraged and said, ‘We are not slaves. We have never been slaves’. They could not recognize their spiritual slavery to sin. Then Jesus told them, ‘You should know the truth and the truth shall make you free’. The Truth of God gives us freedom from spiritual bondage. John Newton was a captain of slave ships. He invested in slave trade. He enslaved thousands of slaves. Then he came to Christ. He realized that he himself was a slave to sin and greed. Then he became an abolitionist. He wrote the famous hymn, ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see’. Grace redeems us and helps us see the truth of God.
The Bible clearly addresses the slavery when it says, ‘There is neither Jew nor Genitle, neither slave nor free, nor is the there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ Galatians 3:28. There is neither slave nor free. In Jesus Christ, there is neither slave nor free. That is God’s answer to slavery. Come to Christ and learn to love one another.
If you look in history, it is Christianity which gave us the abolitionist movement because there is no other system of thought which justifies human equality. Sam Harris should realize that there is no justification for human equality in atheism. There is no justification for human equality in Hinduism.
There are millions of slaves in the world today. Actually, this is the golden age of slavery. More people are enslaved today than any other period in human history. In fact, India has most slaves than any other nation in the world. Over 100 million people in India are living in slavery. Hinduism’s caste system is one of the main factors in the continuation of slavery in India. What Christians did for human rights and Hindus did for human rights is incomparable. Slavery has long gone from Christian lands. But it is still in existence in India. Read the Bible. In heaven, there is no slavery. You will see all people living in love and harmony in heaven.