Wilberforce was a committed Christian. For him, following Jesus made it morally repugnant to buy, sell or use another human being as one might a lifeless object or a piece of property. His spiritual insight and devotion nourished in him a social conscience founded on respect and compassion.
It is sad but probably no surprise therefore that as the UK and other western nations hurry down the secular highway, rejecting many of the Christian values on which our freedoms have been built, we see a grim return to the cruel trafficking of people for profit. Countless young people are being tricked or kidnapped and sold like meat in a market to feed the lust of a society that has cast off all sexual restraint.
Ironically this is history repeating, or actually reversing itself.
Romans chapter 1v18ff makes strangely familiar reading, describing a 1st century Greco-Roman culture that sounds remarkably like our own. Where the truth God reveals about Himself is rejected, along with His ethical standards. Image is everything. People idealise and idolise every created thing but refuse to worship or obey the Creator.
This distorted world view quickly makes way for wide deviation from the positive sexual blueprint given with the first human marriage in Genesis 2 v 22-25. With reverence for God a thing of the past and technological achievements feeding human pride, moral order collapses and all kinds of abuse follows rapidly. And lo and behold, slavery is making a comeback!
So what’s to be done? We could merely keep our heads down, watch our backs and euphemistically hope selfish human indulgence somehow burns itself out, but that doesn’t appear likely anytime soon.
Better instead that we keep alive the spirit of conscience, justice and compassion, campaigning through every means available to us for freedom and respect protected by law, prosecuting traffickers and caring for victims.
More, we have to challenge the self-indulgent interpretation of freedom our culture has developed that suggests we can simply do whatever we want or feel like. Elsewhere the Apostle Paul writes that while many things may be ‘permitted’, not everything is ‘beneficial’. (1 Corinthians 6 v 12ff) This passage specifically focusses on our sexual desire and the benefit of an old-fashioned thing called self-control!
Which brings us back to the need for solid foundations and daily help. These have been found by William Wilberforce and countless others through the ages in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, and the presence and guidance of His Holy Spirit.
Having brought about many great and good things in centuries past, Christian faith is surely worth a second look in the 21st!