"You have prayed for forgiveness from your sins. Have you prayed for freedom from their bonds? . . . Never once in the bible does God speak either for or against physical slavery. But spiritual slavery—that is a topic He addresses time and again. Over and over Paul pleads with the early church to embrace the freedom of the soul that Christ offers. You must do that, Mari. You must cling, not just to cleansing, but to freedom." ~ Barbara Gregory in Cirlce of Spies
This was a line in my latest book that I really loved—so I was beyond thrilled when the very first review of the novel quoted this line. But it has an interesting history in my little mind.
As I was writing Circle of Spies, our president was about to be inaugurated for the second time. And as my husband was flipping through the TV channels as he’s wont to do of an evening, he landed for a minute on one of those commentators on a news channel that I usually ignore. Especially on this particular channel (no names mentioned, LOL). He was saying, loudly and with great condemnation, how ridiculous it was to expect the president to take his oath with his hand on a Bible.
Insert me narrowing my eyes and thinking, Oh, this should be good!
The guy held up a typical-looking dollar store Bible. “Not once,” he said, “does this book condemn slavery—an institution that held the President’s ancestors in bonds. Not once. I looked!”
My first thought was Yeah, sure, an internet search is really going to show you everything, dude. But then I thought about it (because I try to do that, LOL). I’d read the Bible through several times. And had I too not been struck by this?
He was right. The Bible doesn’t condemn slavery. Ever. It gives instructions on how to treat slaves from among the Israelites (namely, they’re not to be held in perpetual slavery, but more as indentured servants). But in the New Testament, all we ever hear is that slaves ought to obey their masters.
Yeah, I could kinda see where this guy took offense on behalf of the once-slaves. But it was also clear he hadn’t read this Book, not really. If he had, he would realize that especially in the New Testament, God doesn’t address society. He doesn’t tell a nation what laws it should make. He tells individuals how they should act in the society. And the Bible does talk about the importance of freedom. A LOT. But as my Barbara points out above, it’s just that God isn’t so concerned with physical slavery or freedom. He’s concerned with whether our souls are free of the bonds of sin.
I did a lot of thinking and praying on this as I wrote my novel. I had a few characters who were slaves, yes, and one of them in particular chafed against those bonds. But she was free. Because she had embraced salvation, she was far freer than her mistress, who had been long held captive by her sins.
There were men and women of great faith on both sides of the Civil War. Many people today assume that any real, true Christian must have been against slavery…but the fact is, they weren’t. They lived by different standards, with different assumptions. We assume God judged them if they held slaves…but did He? I think, more likely, He judges on what we let hold us captive. He sees the chains on our spirit, not on our wrists.
And so I would challenge that commentator, and my readers, to ask the real question. Because today, every American is free in body. But how many are free in spirit and soul?