When Lincoln Told Slave Owners They Should Try It For Themselves

Uncle Tom and Simon Legree (Wikipedia)

Uncle Tom and Simon Legree

He who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves. Abraham Lincoln, letter of April 6, 1859.

It is not enough for us to agree to “have no slave”. Our call to seek freedom for the oppressed is much greater than that.

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21.)

This is one of the reasons I wrote the post about a pastor who defended American slavery as good for the people enslaved. First, this modern American pastor never once intimated he’d be satisfied with his own family living as 19th Century slaves, and second it’s a flat-out lie on both the physical and spiritual level. Enslaving people misrepresents the gospel of freedom we have through Jesus.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1.)

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36.)

Some may argue that these passages concern spiritual freedom, and I agree. But that’s not all they concern. Jesus repeatedly showed that the physical and the spiritual are so wrapped up that what happens physically can be a sign of what is happening spiritually. (Think of the time he forgave the paralyzed man and then proved to the scoffers that his authority to forgive was real. Mark 2:1-12.) His healings brought much more than mere physical relief to people’s lives.

This is what we are called to do as well. Any Christian who defends slavery misrepresents Christ, who came to set people free. We should be seeking that freedom as well, loosing chains both physical and spiritual wherever we can.


[This is the first in a two part series touching on race and slavery. Next Wednesday you can read The Punishment of Injustice, which originally ran as a guest post at Natasha Robinson’s blog.]


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11 Responses to When Lincoln Told Slave Owners They Should Try It For Themselves

  1. Tuija says:

    Tim, thanks for this. So well said. I don’t have much to comment, except that I’m currently reading two books that have a lot to do with this subject: Gary Haugen’s Just Courage and Eric Metaxas’s Amazing Grace – a biography of William Wilberforce. What a “coincidence” 🙂 Have you read either of them?

    • Tim says:

      I haven’t read them, but perhaps they should go on my summer reading list.

      • Jeannie says:

        Thanks for these book suggestions too, Tuija. I recently read Karen Swallow Prior’s book about Hannah More (who was also an abolitionist); Metaxas wrote her foreword. I just checked, and his book Amazing Grace is in our library system, so I think I’ll get it!

      • Tuija says:

        I think you’d enjoy them, Tim. Gary Haugen makes pretty much the same point as you do in your posts about justice: that taking a stand against injustice is an essential part of being a follower of Jesus.

  2. I think it’s imperative that we recognise the different forms of slavery, too, particularly those that still exist in the world today. If anyone wants to know what modern slavery looks like, there is a wonderful book called ‘Slave’ by Mende Nazer. It is well-written, insightful and deeply moving. Mende is inspiring.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for this, Tim. I appreciate how you link physical and spiritual slavery here. Jesus came to give us freedom in all its forms.

  4. Pingback: The Punishment of Injustice | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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