Confronting Slavery Today

By Mark D. Roberts

December 19, 2019

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 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. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. 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.

Ephesians 6:5-9 (NIV)


Although Ephesians 6:5-9 does not explicitly advocate the abolition of slavery, and though it focuses on the relationship between slaves and masters, before we move on from this text, I want to address the issue of slavery today. I believe that we, as Christians, are called to confront the evil of slavery until it exists no longer in our world.

black and white image of groups of people walking in the streetIf we live in certain parts of the world, it’s easy to assume that slavery is a thing of the past. Yet for millions of people across the globe today, even the Western world, it is a present reality. The Walk Free Foundation publishes one of the most widely respected reports on slavery in today’s world. According to their Global Slavery Index, they estimate that 40.3 million people throughout the world lived as slaves in 2016. Though scholars debate the methodology behind this estimate, even if it is on the high side it nevertheless testifies to the fact that millions upon millions of people in our world are slaves in need of liberation.

Unlike first-century Christians, we are familiar with critiques of slavery. In fact, many of the most notable abolitionist battles have been fought in the name of Christ. Moreover, most of us do not live under the thumb of an empire that gives us no ability to fight for meaningful social and economic change. Even if we individually do not have the resources to wage war against slavery, we can support Christian organizations that do this wisely and effectively.

International Justice Mission is a highly regarded organization on the forefront of Christian efforts to fight slavery, usually called human trafficking today. Such efforts are the outgrowth of the seeds planted in Scripture, including Ephesians 6:5-9. These efforts reflect the wider story of God in which all things are being made right in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). In time, the evil of slavery will be ended when God’s kingdom covers the earth. In the meanwhile, we are called to oppose all that denies the created dignity of each human life—and to announce, in word and deed, the gospel of God’s peace and justice through Jesus Christ.

Something to Think About:

How aware are you of the problem of slavery (human trafficking) in today’s world?

How might you contribute to the fight against slavery?

Something to Do:

If you are not familiar with slavery in today’s world, check out an informative page on the International Justice Mission website. Ask the Lord whether you should make a financial contribution to IJM.


Gracious God, today we pray for those who are caught in the evil of slavery. Lord, you see them. You know them. You heart aches for them.

Be with them this day, comforting them with your presence, reassuring them in your love.

May your justice roll down like water, dear Lord, drowning slavery in its path. Please undergird and encourage those who are fighting against human trafficking—organizations like International Justice Mission. Empower them as agents of your justice and love.

Thank you, O God, for the promise of the future, for the Advent hope of your kingdom coming. We long for the day when your righteousness prevails, when the whole earth walks in your ways. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Best of Daily Reflections: God’s Plan: To Bring Unity to All Things Under Christ

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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