Once a slave, now a dear brother!
Scripture reading for October 13th: Philemon
Paul’s short letter to his dear friend, Philemon, who lived in Colosse stands as an example of how the early church fathers dealt with the sensitive issue of slavery under a government where it was legal and with church members who actually owned slaves. Philemon owned Onesimus, a slave who had run away and providentially found Paul in Rome in jail. The letter reflects Paul’s heart for his friend, Philemon, and for Onesimus, his new ‘son’ through receiving Christ as Lord.
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow solder and to the church that meets in your home: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs. 1-2) Paul was in jail, but considered himself a ‘prisoner of Jesus Christ.” He wrote with affection and blessing to Philemon and the church family in Colosse. He had no condemnation or words of judgment, but thanksgiving and commendation for the love and work of Philemon and his church family.
“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. . . . I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. . . .Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good–no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. . . .So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.” (Philemon 8-9,10-11,15-17) Paul wanted Philemon to joyfully and willingly receive Onesimus back as a brother in the Lord. He might still do the work of a slave, but he was free in Christ! May this example stir our hearts with Christ’s love!