Be like Philemon
A cool story. An amazing friendship. A lesson about Christian love.
Philemon is a book that will shake us to our core and change our relationships and social life if we take it seriously (read it now - it's only 25 sentences long!).
It centres, appropriately enough, around Philemon, a rich man of good social standing, who becomes a Christian (possibly through Paul’s ministry), and his rebellious, runaway slave, Onesimus.
Masters and slaves
In Bible days, masters owned slaves. It was not an equal relationship. In ordinary circumstances, Philemon and Onesimus did not relate to each other as people, peers or equals. They would not have been ‘friends’.
The slave Onesimus stole money from his master Philemon and ran away. However, in an extraordinary twist, he ended up with Paul in Rome and became a Christian. He could have stayed there and begun a new life, but Paul was keen to see Philemon and Onesimus reunited — and in a bigger way than just a master and slave.
Paul's radical request
Paul writes a letter to Philemon and asks him to accept Onesimus back – as a brother. Not as a slave, but as a child of God like himself; in fact, a friend. This is huge!!
Accepting Onesimus back even as a slave would have been a scandal. But for Philemon to welcome him into his house as an equal and friend and valued human being would really turn things upside down. It would be guaranteed that this would challenge Philemon’s social standing in his town.
Could you be like Philemon?
This is Christianity that really makes waves. To go against social norms, class and race lines, and make friends with people who are considered ‘lesser’ is a very courageous thing to do.
Philemon is being asked to do it and to demonstrate the character of God in a way that is very costly to himself.
This is what God’s saving love brings us to do – to break down the barriers of hatred and difference that we people create.
Christian friendship goes across wealth, status, and social acceptance. Christian friendship is radical and beautifully scandalous.
Are there people at your school, church, or youth group who could do with a friend like you? Be bold. Be loving. Be like Philemon.
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