Modern Slavery

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could “be like gods”—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
~ Colossians 4:1

Padded with power here they come

International loan sharks backed by the guns
Of market hungry military profiteers
Whose word is a swath and whose brow is smeared
With the blood of the poor
Who rob life of its quality
Who render rage a necessity
By turning countries into labour camps
Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom
…Idolatry of Ideology
~ Bruce Cockburn

One of the most astounding developments in this writer’s life upon moving to Indonesia is the fact that he left the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave and became something that he never imagined himself becoming.

He has a slave in his house.

Well, the agency that sent us this live-in maid would call her something else.  But in any economy where the person working at a job could not afford to even hope to live on the few cents an hour she is being paid – unless living under the house of a master employer – this person is nothing other than a slave.

She is a simple, small, and strong woman with a love for our son, and a sing-song voice.  She works many hours doing the things we buy machines to do in the developed world.  And she does it with a smile.  She is so small that she prefers ironing our clothes, sitting Indian-style, on the smooth tile floor. 

i have arisen in the night to find her at work, taking care of something during a time where we would not be disturbed.

She fawns on our 4-year old boy and plays with him like a big sister.

And while organization is not a strong point, there is a rugged enthusiasm to her work, and a trustworthiness that makes her a definite positive variable in the household.

i recently improved a couple of things in our apartment, like adding some clothesline space, and one might have thought that i had bought this woman a new upright dryer.  She beamed at the simple strand of white rope i had strung across our balcony.

And then it hit me.  This woman was our slave.  She was utterly dependent on us, not only for a few dollars a day, but for her food, her housing, and even her tools to do the job she was doing for us. It hammered into my spirit that justice demanded i investigate and make sure there were not any other things this person needed to keep her from being muzzled while working the threshing floor of my home.
And it hit me too that slavery is alive and well in our culture.  And while I have never been convinced, i am now convinced that it is an economic choice of lesser evil in a country where dozens of millions of people just need some way to survive.

And it hit me further that, while other people in this culture might actually treat these people like the slaves they are, i am beholden to a standard other than simply comparing myself to the Asian Joneses around me.  And while i am beholden to honor the cultural norm and economic need of the modern slave system at work in my house… i am further beholden to treat this precious being – made in the very same image of the very same G_d we both serve – as a precious and very human being. 

So, yeah, i do not have a clue how this is going to work out.  But, one thing is for sure, we might be the only Jesus this little smiling, sing-song woman ever really sees.   And i will, by His grace – be that Jesus to this precious slave of our household.

i once had a grandfather who was a very powerful man.  He was an officer in the Army, a political operator and a corporate lawyer after that.  This man always treated every individual he ever met one way: like they were simply humans of infinite value and worth.  He would stop and giver whoever was in his field of view his full attention and respect.  My grandfather was not Jesus, but he sure acted like Him a lot of the time.

Would that we might all look to those around us; those weaker, “lesser” precious beings within our allotted sphere.  Who will we be to those people?  Will we be – perhaps – the only Jesus they might ever see and meet on this earth?

O God, help us to be masters of ourselves that we may be servants of others.
~Sir Alec Paterson