Sep
18

Dealing with Colossians 3

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D. writes to LCC:

As Christians and Libertarians, how do we deal with Colossians 3:22?

“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not be way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.”

I’m having a hard time with this.

Here’s an answer for you, D.

Paul says elsewhere that it is good if you can obtain your freedom. See 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.” In one epistle, Paul even gently rebukes a slave owner – Philemon – admonishing him to free the slave Onesiumus.

The reason Paul wrote to the Colossians in this way was to advise prudence. With the newfound freedom a Christian in bondage has found, he might make a rash decision to buck his presumptive “owner” and put himself in a terrible position for his health and witness.

Also, this is actually an encouraging message to someone in slavery. Perhaps after hearing the gospel of Christ and the freedom it brings, the slave may think that there is no way he could possibly be included in this salvation – for he is in physical bondage. Paul’s meta-message is that all are included in the gospel.

Remember what Paul says in Galatians 3 to all Christians everywhere: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

No matter where we are, whether in physical bondage of slavery or oppressed in a dictatorship, the body of Christ – the Church universal – prevails forever.

(Additionally, you might be interested in the LCC blog post on Slavery in the Old Testament.)

This has been included in the FAQ of LibertarianChristians.com. Have a question? Ask away.

Norman Horn

Norman is the founder and editor of LibertarianChristians.com. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Austin Graduate School of Theology.

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  • LKZ

    The original language is doulos for servant (slave) – subjection or subserviency. Paul often referred to himself as a doulos of Christ. I believe if we extrapolate to the present we can use that term to mean any position of subordination – in Paul’s day it was actual slaves – today it is the boss/employee relationship. Paul often imitated Jesus when teaching and used the example of the culture of that day to emphasize a Spiritual truth.
    I admonish a Biblical word search on doulos…y’all will be blessed.

  • http://libertarianchristians.com Norman Horn

    To a certain extent, LKZ, I think you are right. However, I don’t think that such an interpretation fully answers the question, and the point I am making is more limited in scope yet somewhat more direct to the question (opinion alert!).

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