A few weeks ago I started a new unit with my grade 7s. This is one that I have taught multiple times. It is “The Black Peoples of America”.

We start off looking at the one of the most famous of Black Americans, Martin Luther King Jr., but then quickly go back in time to how there even came to be Black people in America – slavery.

Not the most fun topic in the world.

But in a couple of the videos that we watch to help us to learn about this topic, the person mentions that one of the reasons that slave owners at the time justified the slavery, was through the use of the Bible.

And so, for one class, we actually have a look at this. Social Studies turns Bible Class, and we turn to the Scriptures.

Before we did so, this time, we stood on a continuum line of where we think we are in regards to this statement: “Slavery is condoned in the Bible”. Overwhelmingly, most of the students went towards the furthest part of the continuum, towards the disagree side; they believe it is wrong, and therefore the Bible must also back that up.

And then we turn to the Scriptures:

Old Testament: Exodus 21; Leviticus 25

Paul’s Epistles: Colossians 3; Ephesians 6; Titus 2

And even Jesus?!: Luke 7

The consensus (at least from these few Scriptures) seems to be that ‘slavery is okay’.

I asked the same question again “Slavery is condoned in the Bible”. Everyone had moved. I think it surprised some of my students. That it was seen as okay, that there were regulations for it, that even Jesus didn’t blink an eye!

But then I take my students here, to those so much smarter than I, to those who have wrestled with this topic.

Does the Bible really condone slavery? Well, in some ways yes. But the Bible’s main purpose is not to change society from the outside in – it is to change it from the inside out.

And just as John Newton discovered after he found Jesus following his career in sailing with slaves, there is amazing change, and Amazing Grace that follows.

Amen to God wanting to change the whole of us, not just the outside.

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