Philemon One: That was Weird…

Posted: June 14, 2012 in Philemon

The incredibly short book of Philemon is odd. There’s just no other way to put it. In the middle of Paul’s letters to pastors and churches, we see this one-chapter letter in which Paul urges Philemon to not punish his runaway slave named Onesimus, whom Paul is commanded to return to his owner.

Yeah…you read that right. Paul doesn’t condemn slavery. At all. However, if you dig a little bit into the historical/cultural description of first-century slavery, you’d find that it’s nothing like what we in 21st century America envision slavery to be.

But the fascinating thing here is that Onesimus seems to have begun his tenure as a slave as a non-Christian, and somewhere along the way was converted by God and wanted to go be with Paul, which is why Paul says “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.”

We could argue the whole slavery issue all day long, but I don’t want to do that. Instead, I urge you to read this passage and learn from it that God is redeeming for Himself people from every social class, with every kind of social status. Rich, poor, black, white, we know that Jesus will be worshipped by members of every tribe, tongue, language, and people…so don’t look down on non-Christ followers who may look different from you. Don’t be ashamed to present the Gospel even to the most down-trodden of society. Christianity isn’t a clique, so let’s not live as if it is.

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