Speaking to the Soul – May 13

A reading and a reflection

1 Peter 2:16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.

These verses are hard to reconcile with those that follow. Consider 1 Peter 2:18: “Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.”

This second verse, taken out of context, was used to justify slavery in the United States. White slave owners cited this and other verses, invoking the authority of the Bible and God as permission to hold slaves. They used their freedoms as citizens and Christians as a pretext for evil.

It is impossible to fully understand and empathize with the mind of a past individual or culture so I will not presume to explain that which I could never understand. But I believe that history and the people of the past speak to current times and living people. I wonder how other Christians and I use the freedoms given to us by God today as a pretext to benefit ourselves. In what ways do we use our freedoms to disadvantage others, even to oppress?

MOVING FORWARD: Research Absalom Jones, the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church. What can his witness teach you today?