No student of history can deny that people claiming to be Bible-believing Christians participated significantly in the establishment, propagation, and defense of one of the most heinous evils in human history, race-based chattel slavery, and they used the Bible to do so. This is a stain upon our history that we must own as a community. We must not only acknowledge that this was the case, we must actively repent! By repent I don’t mean that as individuals we should be apologizing for something our ancestors did, but rather, we should be actively and consciously moving the opposite direction of whatever led them to commit such terrible crimes against the law of Christ.

This way of repentance has both negative and positive dimensions.

On the negative side, it is appropriate to lament this great evil whenever we think of it. As long as it lives in memory we should seek to understand the reasons why Christianity at large tolerated such a void of morality and decency for hundreds years. We should explicitly denounce (which means to condemn) any way of thinking that leads to such things. At the same time, we must realize that these ways of thinking are transmitted culturally, and have yet to be completely eradicated, so we must also explicitly renounce (which means to formally give up) any such aspects of our culture that have crept into the life of the church universally or locally.

On the positive side, we must actively replace the ways of thinking that we are denouncing and renouncing with a way that leads to the truth about what the Bible says regarding the heart of God for all people. This was modeled for us by the great Christian abolitionists such as William Wilberforce, who believed (rightly!) that a careful reading of the Old and New Testaments reveals the heart of God for all people is freedom and flourishing that begins in the present.

If we read the Scriptures with an eye of discovering the heart of God revealed in Christ, we discover the ministry of the people of God is a ministry of reconciliation between people and God in the here and now!

Out of that comes a spiritual liberation that works its way out into the restoring of people to one to another in the here and now!

And out of that comes freedom that undermines every form of oppression in the here and now!