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Covid-19 Devotionals

On Slavery

I prepare a message for Sundays that I upload to YouTube. Then on Sunday mornings, Jenny and I watch a church service from a church in Cape Town where we were members many years ago … after which we go for the double feature! Because Jenny has not seen the message I put online, we watch. Something that struck me today was Colossians 3:11:

Col 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

In context, this relates to the supremacy of Christ! Where Jesus is Lord, no distinction amongst people are permitted. The counterpart to this verse is Galatians 3:28

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In context this relates to our sonship in Christ. Once again, where Jesus is Lord, no distinction between people is permitted. Before coming back here, I want to refer to a matter that arose from an article, authored by Paul Trewhela in a document written about what he calls “a notable blind spot of the BLM (Black lives matter) movement.” He writes into the context of Black History Month in the USA, which comes just before the presidential election in November. He says … “A major problem in Barack Obama’s autobiography, Dreams from my Father, is summed up in the title of the last book by the banned South African historian, editor and publisher, Ronald Segal: Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora.” In Segal’s book, he reveals a history of East Africa which Obama’s book fails to disclose–a history of Islamic slave trade and slavery.

The sub-title of Obama’s book is: A Story of Race and Inheritance. “But while the issue of race is explored with sensitivity, intimacy and care – given the brief marriage of his white American mother and his black Kenyan father, whom he knew for only one month when he was aged ten – the issue of “inheritance” is largely negated by Obama’s almost complete avoidance of his own African Islamic family background.” Trewhela writes … “In fact, the Islamic slave trade in black people from East Africa continued for almost three times as long as did the slave trade by white, Christian Europeans of people from West Africa to white slave-owners in the Americas. It began not long after the death of the prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, continuing until the 20th century. Beginning centuries before and finished decades after the “Atlantic” slave trade, this “Oriental” slave trade – conducted by Muslims – remains greatly under-studied. There is evidence that it continues today. “Omani Arabs had been trading for slaves along the East African coast for centuries,” writes Sega”. (You are welcome to contact me and I will email the document to you.)

You might be saying to yourself: “Don, why on earth are you raising this issue?” Simply because the verses above speak of distinctions not permitted in Christianity, yet, after the slavery of the Roman Empire, it seems as though Islam is the actual leader in slavery, especially from East Africa (where part of Obama’s ethnic and religious history comes from, which he leaves out of his book when addressing inheritance). That is Trewhela’s point when he says: “a notable blind spot of the BLM movement”. You see, few will take on Islam for fear of reprisal.

Let me go back to the Bible. In the context of Christ’s supremacy, Paul writes in Colossians that earthly distinctions have no importance and no place in the Kingdom of God. In the world outside of Christ there are so many hurtful distinctions separating people one from another. Look at the four groupings Paul mentions:

Nationality (Jew / Greek): To the Jew, the world was divided into two. Jews and Greeks or Jews and non-Jews or Jews and Pagans. To the Jew it was either the spiritually advantaged or spiritually disadvantaged … that is, the Jew saw themselves as the spiritually elite. God chose them to be His special people so they were advantaged and the Greeks were disadvantaged! It was not about skin colour or ethnicity or tribe or language! The demarcation factor was all about being chosen and therefore advantaged by God. The Greeks saw themselves as superior to the Romans. To them the Romans were the uncivilized and uncultured whilst they saw themselves as the superior and privileged portion of the human race.

Religious Rites (circumcised or uncircumcised): The Jews trace circumcision all the way back to Abraham and God’s instruction to him in Genesis chapter 17. The identification mark or sign separating the Jews from the rest of the nations’ (pagans) spiritually or religiously was the physical act of circumcision, which was in itself a religious rite.

Culture (Barbarian, Scythian): The cultured Greek saw the Barbarians as those who spoke unintelligible language because they stuttered and stammered when they spoke. They were not articulate and needed to be avoided. For the Greeks, the demarcation factor was civilization and culture.

Social Status (slave or free): The huge class distinction was whether a person was “born free” or born a slave (or bought as a slave). The one had all the rights and the other had no rights outside what their owner gave them. They were owned! Whether it was Africans selling African slaves; Whether it was Europeans buying and selling African slaves; Whether it was Islamic people (Oriental) buying and selling African slaves – slave trading was not just wrong and inhumane, it was a gross sin of the most depraved kind. And those who were Christian or those who fell under the umbrella of Christianity ought to have known better because the Word of God was available to them. Both Colossians 3 and Galatians 3 were available to them. The point is that in the Church of God irrespective what nationality, religious persuasion, culture or social status one comes from, once saved by grace and part of God’s Eternal Kingdom, everyone MUST be treated equally, for in Christ we are “identically” the same … saved and washed by the same blood, belonging to the same family, serving the same God and gifted to complement each other.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Thank You that I am part of this great purchase. Help me to receive and treat all equally. Amen.

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