June 13, 2012

From slave to brother

Filed under: Uncategorized — andykiff @ 6:35 pm

Philemon 1:15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever,16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

I remember reading a story about Onesimus when I was a child (Twice Freed by Patricia St John) so this short letter always comes alive in my imagination.  What I can read for certain is that Onesimus was Philemon’s slave; he ran away to Rome, possibly having stolen from Philemon; he somehow encountered Paul and became a Christian; and Paul is now writing a letter accompanying Onesimus as he returns home.  Paul is begging Philemon not to think in the old terms of slave and master but to treat Onesimus as a brother.

This is such a bold request and such a contrast to the low social status Onesimus should have by rights.  This is the Gospel.  The slave is lifted up, his debts are paid and he stands equal with the one who, in worldly terms, should be his master.  It’s the same turnaround I’ve been given and is offered to everyone.  Freedom, forgiveness and a whole new life.

Thank You Lord that you turn the useless into useful, the slave to a free man, the guilty to the forgiven.


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