Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
From Slaves to Heirs
Galatians 3:26–4:20; Romans 6:1–11; Hebrews 2:14–18; 4:14, 15; Romans 9:4, 5
August 19, 2017
Slavery is not a thing of the past. It is estimated that there are between 20 to 30 million people in slavery today. Those numbers have increased in recent years, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). There are many types of slavery. The ILO defines a person being enslaved when they are forced to work through mental or physical threat, if they are “owned or controlled” by an employer (through mental or physical abuse), if a person is treated as a commodity (dehumanized), and if they are physically constrained and do not have freedom of movement. The last country in the world to officially abolish slavery was Mauritania (an Arab country in western Africa) in 1981. Even so, many countries ignore the laws against slavery. In order to minimize legal action, slave owners use nicer words to describe their illegal trade, like “debt bondage,” “bonded labor,” or “attached labor.” 
The US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report reveals that about 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year and that 80 percent of those victims are female. Most shocking is that 50 percent of these people are under the age of 18. The US Department of State explains that one million children each year are exploited by the global sex trade. Sadly, many of these are taken away when they are between the ages of 12 and 14 years old. These children are often runaways who were sexually abused when they were younger. The average cost of a slave today is $90. Almost half of the world’s slaves are found in India.
Even though facts about modern day slavery are shocking and mostly unknown, we can see hatred and abuse all around us if we open our eyes. In this week’s Sabbath school lesson, the apostle Paul continues his letter to the church in Galatia with a reminder that though they once lived in bondage to sin, they are no longer slaves since Christ has set them free. Such freedom does not come from attempting to keep the law but through faith in what Jesus has done to fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
A symbol of our salvation in Christ’s work for us is baptism. When we are lowered into the water, we die to our old way of life and are raised up through the power of the resurrection to live for Jesus. Paul compares it to putting on a garment. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Then he goes on to emphasize that all humanity has an equal opportunity to receive this gift. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free … for you are all one in Christ” (v. 28).
Have you been set free?