Six days before John Wesley died, he wrote a letter to William Wilberforce, the man who strived for decades to abolish the slave trade in England. In this letter, Wesley urged Wilberforce not to give up the fight against slavery, but to persevere. He wrote:
“Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as Athanasius contra mundum, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.
Wilberforce did persevere, and within his lifetime not only was the slave trade abolished in England but all English slaves were freed.
At the very heart of Christianity is a conviction that it is our duty to stand up against injustice, even if that injustice is the biggest evil of our day and ingrained in culture’s psyche.
Today, some 220-plus years after Wesley wrote his letter to Wilberforce, we are again faced with “that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of [America], and of human nature.” Except now we have surpassed England’s immorality. We don’t legally own other human beings; we legally kill innocent human beings. Millions of them. And the church stands by, afraid to speak the truth and blinded by other, peripheral issues.