Philemon was a wealthy citizen of Colosse. The church in that city gathered in his home. It was to this man Paul wrote concerning a slave named Onesimus who had run away from Philemon. Onesimus had run until his path crossed Paul’s path. Onesimus became a believer under Paul’s teaching and ministry… though he was still a slave. Onesimus may have feared for his life; a master had the legal right to kill a runaway slave. Paul wanted to assure both his friends that their relationship in Jesus Christ meant reconciliation and restitution were both possible.
Because Paul was an apostle – and so respected by many in the church, he could have used his authority to force Philemon to deal kindly with his runaway slave. Instead, Paul appealed to Philemon’s Christian commitment. He wanted Philemon’s heartfelt obedience. To make his case more convincing, Paul gently reminded Philemon of his personal obligation to him. He was confident Philemon would see Onesimus’ return as a reminder of God’s mercy in his own life.
Can others count on the consistency of your character?
As you have grown in the Christian faith, have other trusted you with greater responsibilities and expectations?
Do you forgive others completely?
If not, determine today to address the issues that are hindering your own spiritual growth.
The Bible does not address the morality or immorality of slavery. Looking back, from our 21st-century perspective, most wish it would have. It simply dealt with it as the culture – throughout the centuries the Bible was written – the Bible was written in. The Bible does, though, address the care that should be given to slaves.
Remember this… the Bible is ALWAYS more concerned with one’s soul than one’s circumstances. It usually speaks to one’s circumstances – and how they can be made better, but speaks first to one’s eternal destiny, and how life can be be made more abundant here. It never loses sight of the forest for the trees.
You can read Philemon’s story in the letter written to him by Paul… Philemon.