Given By Rev. Madison Shockley July 7, 2019
We recently celebrated the United States of America’s freedom as a country. While it benefited some, giving some people religious and political freedom, it caused great pain to others, such as the deaths of thousands of indigenous people and the enslavement of Africans. The USA and slavery have had a complicated history. During the abolitionist movement, Fredrick Douglas was invited to speak at the White House on the Fourth of July. His speech, titled “What to the Slave is Your Fourth of July,” spoke to the irony of celebrating freedom while holding slaves. Christianity and slavery have also had a complicated history. In the Bible, Paul speaks of all people having been freed, to never submit again to the yoke of slavery. All those who were excluded, slaves, women, and Gentiles, were equal in Christ’s eyes. Then, Paul had to walk a fine line between keeping his word about the Good News and maintaining social order when, Onesimus, slave of Philemon, runs to Paul asking if he were no longer a slave as Paul had preached. Paul instead writes to Philemon, telling him that freeing Onesimus would be the right thing, but the decision to do the right thing was up to Philemon. We can only hope Philemon did the right thing. Paul later writes that we are set free from slavery in order to become slaves to others. We do not need to conform to the dominant culture in order to have a relationship with Jesus and God, only have faith. We can only be free when everyone is free.