How the Church Failed- When Gold outweighs Glory

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Intro - yellow sheets
Biblical understanding of slavery. In the Old Testament God’s designs for Israel.
Exodus 21:1–11 ESV
“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever. “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
Part of the current economic system in the OT and NT. Slavery was oppressive but limited. You could own property, buy your freedom and run away in the worst situation. In Israel there were two types of slaves foreign slaves taken by war who were slaves for life which were relatively few in number. And Hebrew slaves.. But Slaves that worshiped Yahweh were accorded the rights of bondsmen. and freed after a 6 years with everything that they would need to start a new life.
Any slave in the OT was accorded rights. they couldn’t be mistreated and female slaves were to be treated with respect. and could not taken advantage of. If a slave was wounded or horribly mistreated they were freed.
Exodus 21:26–27 ESV
“When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.
In this way many of the most brutal aspects of slavery were blunted and slavery in Israel served the role of providing care for those who could not care for themselves. But even these rules that God put in place should not be read to mean that God approved of Slavery. You can compare it to God’s perspective on Divorce. Jesus Says that God allowed it not because it was a good thing but because of the hardness of the hearts of those who were receiving God’s law.
Colossians 3:22–4:1 ESV
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
In the New testament we see Paul and Peter approach slavery as part of the culture of the time. They both encouraged those who were slaves to be obedient, for the sake of The Lord Jesus not their earthly masters. But Paul encouraged slaves to buy their freedom if they were able. Which just goes to show you how different that slavery was from the slavery of the last 500 years. That they were able to do that and that they might not have wanted to !
1 Corinthians 7:21 ESV
Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.)
And every-time Paul addresses slaves in the church he also addresses Slave owners Calling them to show Christ like love and mercy for their slaves. And Paul also calls both groups to recognize that the family of God was of greater import than the Master and slave relationship.
Remember at the time the economy of Slave and master was very different than it later became. And it was relatively common for a man or a woman to live their lives quite happily as slaves. Some freedmen would sell themselves into slavery to escape financial ruin or famine. only to buy their own freedom when things picked up. If you were a slave your master was obligated to feed and to cloth you. Not that all masters were good and certainly not all salves were happy.
Still slavery was not a matter of Race in the Roman period- it was a matter of finances. It was part of the economy of age and thus was a fairly permeable barrier.
But The early fathers of the church certainly dreamed of a world that could be better. A world with out slavery.
Augustine, John Chrysostom and St. Patrick all spoke out against the institute of slavery in their writings and ministries.
Patrick had been taken as a slave and so he was particularly ferocious in his argumentation that Christians should not own slaves.
Through the Middle Ages the Catholic church followed the opinions of these great men of the faith and slavery was all but eliminated in Europe… Since Europe was predominantly Christian and the church had proclaimed that Christians could not own Christians as slaves.
But then something changed!
In the mid 15th century Portuguese sailors began trading with Islands of the coast of Africa and saw that they could make a great profit by bringing Pagan slaves in to be sold in Europe. Now at that point in history the then pope of the catholic church needed Gold and Portugal offered to pay well for the privelege of selling slaves. So the pope gave Portugal permission to get into the slave trade! And then very shortly afterwards Columbus discovered the new world and before you know it the Spanish wanted to get into the slave business and for a fee the pope gave them permission and Spanish slave trade had begun.
But the problem was the Catholic church also wanted to evangelize to the natives in the New World - but in order to do that without threatening the Spaniard’s rights to own them as slaves the church developed the idea that these new peoples were not entirely human and as a lesser race they needed to be owned in order to be taught to be civilized and christian. Remember how Bartolome de las Casas fought against this principle with limited success?
Effectively with this new stance the church turned slavery into a matter of race rather than finances. And they literally sanctified the treating of men and women made in God’s image as beasts. This stance made the problem of slavery much worse than it had been before and moved the institution in many horrible steps toward the evil institution that we know of today!
Now before we spend to much time picking on the catholic church we should spend more time looking at the brokenness in our own protestant history.
Originally in the 16th century Calvin one of the 3 most significant protestant reformers held slavery to be a product of sin and considered it evil for man to own man. But when there was money to make protestants in the new world and in Great Britain were quick to utilize slavery as a means to grow great plantations and make ridiculous amounts of money.
And originally the Protestant Christians that were slave owners regarded Protestantism as a way to differentiate between the slaves that were not Protestant and the Masters that were Protestant. This includes the puritans whom many of us reformed types tend towards looking up too. But then Protestant missionaries anxious to preach to the slaves approached the slave owners and they too worked out as system that was very similar to the Catholic system. They decided that the differentiation was racial rather than religious. This is where that crazy talk about the “children of Ham” being predestined to be slaves comes from.. Funny how no one told the Egyptians or the queen of sheba that they were destined to be slaves.. No this too was a new doctrine for a new age. And the missionaries who were now quite close to the slave owners since they were white themselves- took it a step further and taught from their pulpits the value of being obedient slaves emphasizing Paul's obey your masters and to not aspire to freedom.
So the protestant church found itself perpetuating and adding to the lie that that the catholic church has begun using 200 years earlier.
And so the damage was done! Slavery was worsened a thousand times over by these lies. Now owners did not have to see their slaves and humans or brothers and sisters in Christ- now they could see them and treat then as chattel which was frequently worse than their cattle. And the damage that was caused to our cultures and nations by the racelization of slavery and our societies has been continuing to poison us ever since.
So to Re-cape not only did the church choose to allow the slavery of the peoples of Africa and the america’s but it sanctified it by twisting scripture and promoting what we would call today white supremacist doctrines. And they did it all for for a lot of gold.
So how do we respond to this realization?? I have been wrestling with this question for a while.
we must begin with our own hearts and move outward.
We need humility. This is all a reminder of how quickly we can become idolatrous and hurt ourselves and others.
as Christians we also need the humility to recognize how great a sin the church has committed over the past 500 years. this was not something done to us or something that the church overlooked. It was an evil committed by Christians many times over while doing so in the Lord’s name.
And if we can admit that it was our forfathers who did this then we need to be ready to confess. For our sake and for the sake of the generations that have been wounded by the wrongful actions of the church. We need to be willing to acknowledge our blindness began here but extended far beyond this point into many of the other ways that the western church has related to other cultures and tribes ever since.
Then we can weep for what was lost because of the greed and cowardice of those who came before us.
And having done these things we can cry out to Christ to heal our communities our churches and our world.
For 500 years the church has been complicit in this lie. It might take another 500 for her to repay what she has taken.
Now there is good news in the midst of this mess. And it isn’t some happy accident that made it all worth while. Not it is simply this truth. Jesus loves the church, his bride. And he will wash her clean. She became Babylon and he loved her and bought her back. And he is loving her still.
This is all a reminder that when the church thinks she is clean and doesn’t need the grace of God. She fails and falls into sin and ruin. But when we recognize how quickly we can fall and instead rely humbly on Jesus then we are exactly where he wants us.
And once we are walking humbly with this knowledge and in growing dependence on Jesus. Then we are no longer part of the problem. But instead we can become part of the solution.
As Paul said to the church of Corinth
2 Corinthians 7:9–11 ESV
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.
My friends, let us grieve what was done and what was lost and look to christ to help us redeem a world and a church that is broken.
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