Many moderns have been offended that the Apostle Paul, in many verses of the New Testament, seems to sanction slavery in saying such things as “slaves, obey your masters…”. Might this, however, be to miss the larger picture. In Paul’s day, 2/3’s of the general population of the Roman Empire were slaves, and were essentially “faceless” and voiceless before the institutional powers. Early Christians were the first to acknowledge the humanity of the enslaved and oppressed in any sense, and to further accord them equal worth before God. Paul’s value was to promote neither acquiescence, nor violent revolution, but rather the way of Christ, that to follow Him would be the ultimate path to vindication and freedom. What can this mean for us today?
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.