1TIMOTHY 6:1-2 BROTHERS OR SLAVES?
1 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.
It may have taken fallen human beings 1900 years to abolish slavery, but the seeds of that abolition were sown by St. Paul. He did not take on the institution directly or perhaps even intentionally, because it was so integral to Roman society. Slaves were counted among the population as field laborers, soldiers, household servants and craftsmen. It would be hard to envision how St. Paul would have been able to even conceive of a world without slavery. However, he undermines the foundation of slavery, which is that certain people are the property of other people. In this passage, Ephesians 6:5-10 and Philemon, St. Paul places the focus on the relationship between slave and master. When the two parties have a common foundation in their lives and begin to see each other as brothers in at least one aspect of their lives then their relationship is going to be radically changed.
For most of us slavery is a bad memory from world history or perhaps a justice issue in another part of the world. But few of us have had any personal experience with the institution. We tend to be far more subtle. We allow our anger, pain or fear to cause us to treat others as less than human and we allow our growing hatred to be a barrier between us and them. Although our ultimate goal is to love all our neighbors (and that as ourselves) perhaps we should follow the biblical example pertaining to slavery and begin with those problem relationships that we experience in our church community. The downward spiral of a broken relationship can only be halted when you intentionally begin to treat your opponent as a brother or sister in Christ. Like a good mediator you must seize on what you have in common, which is that Christ died for you both. With that new perception as a starting point you can then begin to have it inform your actions, which when pursued will change your attitude. There is a three-fold benefit that is realized by such reconciliation (even if it is one-sided): 1) you are freed from your bondage to your would-be opponent; 2) you free the other from slavery to your dehumanizing expectations; and 3) you fulfill your divine purpose of demonstrating God’s self-sacrificial love for the world.
Lord God, may I never be a slave to anyone but Christ, my Master and Savior. Likewise, may I never enslave others by my attitude and actions toward them. Grow me as your disciple and a faithful witness to your loving kindness. Help me to value all people as being made in your image and worthy of my love and respect. Protect me not only from others but from myself. Amen.