Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:35-36

John, from Northamptonshire, England, had been evangelising both freemen and slaves on a plantation in Demerara, Guyana, for over six years when a slave revolt broke out in August 1823. John was falsely accused of inciting and aiding the rebellion, because of his well-known love for the slaves he worked with, many of whom attended his chapel. The plantation owners also hated his staunch abolitionist stance. John was arrested and tried, and, finding him guilty, the judge sentenced him to death. Amazingly the conviction was remitted, but sadly John died in prison on 6 February 1824, before his release.

The attention his death received in the House of Commons in London was an important factor leading to the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833. His slave congregation named him the “Demerara martyr”.

If Christians followed the teachings of a benign dead man, their lives would display an innocuous piety. But when Christians stand up for righteousness and justice, they evidence the power of the living God.

Charles Colson (born 1931)

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.