By Bill Fix
I’ve heard people disparage the Bible because it does not include an outright condemnation of slavery, and such criticisms grow stronger whenever racial tensions are high. Why did Paul send the slave Onesimus back to his master instead of helping liberate him from Philemon? Why does he seemingly give slavery a pass in Gal. 3:28? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” See also Col. 3:11.
I believe the answer is that while the Bible has much to say about societal issues, its primary purpose is not to remedy every social ill in this world. Instead, the Bible tells us how God wants each of us to live and how we can please Him. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, we can do that in whatever situation we find ourselves—no excuses. If Paul were writing today, it might read, “There is neither rich nor poor, black nor white, married nor single, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Furthermore, this allows man freedom to make the right choice — “that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary” (Phm. 14).
We are commanded time and again to love one another, which leaves no room for racism (Jn. 15:12-13; Rom. 12:10; 1 Jn. 3:18). Jesus instructs in the Great Commission to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28:19). True Christians will not exhibit hatred, unfair judgment, or preferential treatment of others. But if we fail like Peter did (Gal. 2), we should modify our attitudes and actions, while forgiving others who likewise adapt and grow following some offense to us. If Christ broke down the “wall of separation” between Jew and Gentile, and we are “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens” with all the saints (Eph. 2:14-19), then we must set aside any personal biases to do what’s best for Christ and the salvation of our fellow man.