Harriet Tubman rescued many slaves, thus violating the law of the land. Was it
appropriate for a Christian woman to do so?
On one hand, the Bible tells us to obey authority (Romans 13:1-7). All authority is established by God (Romans 13:1) and would not have any power if it was not given to them (John 19:11). We are to submit to authority “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). Verse 15 gives us another reason to do this: “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” Proverbs 24:21-22 says to “fear the Lord and the king”.
On the other hand, we don’t have to obey authority if it goes against God’s laws. Acts 5:29 clearly states that “We must obey God rather than human beings!” Acts 4:18-20 backs that up. There are many examples of men and women in the Bible who violated the laws of the land. Rahab hid the Jewish spies (Hebrews 11:31). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not bow down to the idol (Daniel 3:12). Daniel prayed when the law forbade it (Daniel 6:10). The apostles proclaimed the good news despite being told not to (Acts 4:18, 31). The church flourished in the first century A. D. despite persecutions (Acts 12:24).
But then the question comes up: does the Bible say anything explicitly against slavery? Is God against it? Is one justifiable if he violates the law to help the slaves?
On one hand, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 wrote: “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.” (verses 21-24, NIV). Based on this, Tubman’s actions were not right.
On the other hand, God brought His nation out of Egyptian slavery (Exodus 20:2). He created everyone in His image (Genesis 1:27). Some believe that “the Bible condemns race-based slavery in that it teaches that all men are created by God and made in His image (Genesis 1:27). At the same time, the Old Testament did allow for economic-based slavery and regulated it.”. If this is so, Harriet Tubman’s actions were appropriate for America’s situation of race-based slavery.
Thus, one’s opinion on the appropriateness of Harriet Tubman’s actions depends on his or her interpretation of Scriptural passages.
What do you think?