Category Archives: Ethics

Does the Bible tolerate slavery?

The slavery tolerated by the Scriptures must be understood in its historical context and should not be equated with type of slavery seen in the pre-Civil War American south or in the sex-trade slavery all across the world. Old Testament laws regulating slavery are troublesome by modern standards, but in their historical context they provided a degree of social recognition and legal protection to slaves that was advanced for its time.[1]

In ancient times, slavery existed in every part of the world. Slaves had no legal status or rights, and they were treated as the property of their owners. Even Plato and Aristotle looked upon slaves as inferior beings. As inhumane as such slavery was, we must keep in mind that on occasion it was an alternative to the massacre of enemy populations in wartime and the starvation of the poor during famine. It was to the people of this harsh age that the Bible was first written.

In New Testament times, slave labor was foundational to the economy of the Roman Empire. About a third of the population was comprised of slaves. If the writers of the New Testament had attacked the institution of slavery directly, the gospel would have been identified with a radical political cause at a time when the abolition of slavery was unthinkable. To directly appeal for the freeing of slaves would have been inflammatory and a direct threat to the social order. Consequently, the New Testament acknowledged slavery’s existence, instructing both Christian masters and slaves in the way they should behave.[2] At the same time, it openly declared the spiritual equality of all people.[3]

The gospel first had the practical effect of doing away with slavery within the community of the early church. It also carried within it the seeds of the eventual complete abolition of slavery in the Western world.

The fact that the Bible never expressly condemned the institution of slavery has been wrongfully used as a rationale for its continuance. In the American South prior to the Civil War, many nominal Christians wrongly interpreted the Bible’s approach to slavery and used their misunderstanding to justify economic interests. The terrible use of African slave labor continued in spite of those who argued from the Scriptures for the spiritual equality of all ethnicities. Today the Christian message of the spiritual equality of all people under God has spread throughout the world, and it is rapidly becoming the standard by which the human values of all nations are measured.

[1]. Exodus 21:20-27 ; Leviticus 25:44-46

[2]. Ephesians 6:5-9 ; Colossians 3:2 ; Colossians 4:1 ; 1 Timothy 6:2 ; Philemon 1:10-21

[3]. Galatians 3:281 Corinthians 7:20-24 ; Colossians 3:11

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Why do women stay with abusive men?

The reasons women stay in abusive relationships are varied and complicated. If we are going help those who suffer in domestic abuse situations, we must first recognize that these women need someone who will listen to their story, not re-victimize them with questions and innuendos. Sometimes we do more harm than good when we say things like:

  • Why doesn’t she just leave?
  • Why would anybody in their right mind stay with him?
  • She must like the abuse; she keeps going back!

A woman who is being abused may leave several times in her mind and actually attempt to move out more than five times before she is finally successful. Often it is dangerous for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, but there are also many other reasons that she doesn’t just walk or run away.

Sometimes women stay because they are afraid. She fears:

  • Greater physical danger to herself and her children if she tries to leave.
  • Being hunted down and suffering a worse beating than before.
  • Negative responses or lack of understanding from family, friends, police, ministers, counselors, courts, etc.

Sometimes women stay because they do not have the resources to leave. They do not have:

  • Employment or a source of income.
  • Knowledge of shelters, advocacy groups, or support.
  • Spiritual strength, wisdom, discernment, or a loving community.

Sometimes women stay because they believe things will get better if they just try harder. They think:

  • “I need to keep the family together no matter what. Kids need a father.”
  • “I swore to stay married till death do us part. I promised to stay with him in sickness and in health, for better or worse. I can’t just leave him because he has a problem.”
  • “I can help him get better if we stay. No one understands him like I do.”
  • “It’s really not that bad. Other people have it worse.”
  • “I am the cause of the violence and it’s all my fault.” She may feel as though she deserves the abuse.

And sometimes she stays, as strange as it sounds, because she loves her abuser.

  • Often the abuser is quite loving and lovable when he is not being abusive.
  • He really does make her feel good and he knows what she likes.

She remembers what he used to be like, especially during the makeup phase.

(adapted from Live Right Now)

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How can I help a friend who’s always being put down by her boyfriend?

Don’t stand by and watch your friend suffer abuse. Yes, this is classified as abuse, and we need to recognize it as such. Anything a person says in an attempt to belittle and control another person is abusive. Your first job is to help your friend understand that love is not supposed to behave this way, and they should not consider dating anyone who hurts them or thinks so little of them.

The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.”[1] An abusive and belittling partner is bad company. Not only is an abusive partner bad company, they are poisonous to your friend’s self-esteem.

If the first step is seeing this type of abuse for what it is, the second step will likely be helping your friend see and embrace that they deserve better than the treatment they are getting.

More than likely your friend will tell you that their partner is not like this all the time. And they probably aren’t. But abusers almost always try to isolate and manipulate their victims. You friend may be fooled by her boyfriend’s charm and attention, but if he has already demonstrated an abusive pattern of behavior, it will only get worse if she continues to allow it.

Helping in these kinds of situations is never easy, but as a good friend you can and should gently and lovingly let her know that she is not alone and that she does not have to take this kind of treatment. She is worth more than that to you and to God.

(adapted from Live Right Now)

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:33 esv

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How Can We Love our Neighbor as Our Self, as Jesus Commanded?

Loving other people as oneself is a difficult goal. But Jesus clearly made it fundamental to Christian living. On one occasion, an expert in the Jewish law challenged Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).

Although the goal of loving one’s neighbor as oneself is difficult, it isn’t impossible.  In Luke 6:36-38, Jesus gives some basic principles that help us understand what it involves:

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (NKJV).

This passage contains two principles. One principle is that our expectations of our neighbors are directly related to the expectations that will be placed on us. As Jesus said, “With the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The expectations we have of others will be required by them (and God) of us. But even subjectively, we already love—or hate—our neighbors as ourselves. We subconsciously project our own attitudes and values upon other people, expecting them to perceive us as we perceive them. If we are impatient and judgmental towards others, we assume others will be impatient and judgmental towards us. If we are compassionate and patient towards others, we won’t have to deal with the pressures that come from assuming that others view us with hostility and impatience. Love or hatred directed outwards is always matched by love or hatred directed inwards.

The second principle is that love for one’s neighbor should never be confused with indulgence. A father who gives his children anything they want spoils them. If we love our neighbor as our self, we must be as careful in setting standards and goals for him as we do for ourselves. If God were a genie in a lamp who gave us anything we wanted, would we ever be satisfied? Of course not! Love for our neighbor involves the same principle. While love always seeks to promote the other person’s well-being, at times it is manifested in acts of charity and at other times in firm confrontation.

Our neighbor is just like us. At times he needs mercy, at times he needs correction, but he always needs our love.

 

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Are the Ten Commandments for Christians?

The Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, was given to the people of Israel (Exodus 20:1-17), not Gentiles. It included both moral principles and ceremonial laws and regulations. It was intended to bring awareness of sin and guilt (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7-13; 1 Timothy 1:7-11), not to be a way of earning salvation. (Hebrews 11 explains how Abraham was saved by faith long before the law was given through Moses.)

The Jews referred to the Ten Commandments as “the ten words” (Deuteronomy 4:13). They were the basis of the entire Mosaic system, and as such they contain principles that remain the foundation of Christian ethics.

Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law (Romans 5:5; 8:1-4), so that Christians are no longer under the external Law of Moses (Galatians 3:1-14; Colossians 2:8-17). The Ten Commandments contain elements of ceremonial law. Christians aren’t required to follow these. Yet, when obedient to the Holy Spirit, Christians manifest God’s love and righteousness in harmony with the Ten Commandments’ moral principles (Romans 13:8-10).1

  1. The works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit listed by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5 demonstrate clearly how impossible it would be to live a Spirit-filled life while violating the moral principles within the Ten Commandments. Back To Article
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