Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Philemon 13-14

Summary retelling of Philemon 13-14

Paul tells Philemon that he considers Onesimus valuable enough that he would have liked to have kept him during his imprisonment.  However, Paul wanted to show respect and defer to Philemon’s judgment since Philemon is the master of Onesimus.  Paul wanted to give Philemon the opportunity to act out of Christian love rather than obligation. 

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul sees value in Onesimus, even though he is of the slave class.  Granted, we think rather lowly of the concept of slavery today, but in Paul’s day slavery was simply a way of life.  Paul could have easily looked past Onesimus as a slave.  He could have not even acknowledged his presence.  But to Paul, there is no class of people.  (Remember Galatians 3:28)  To Paul, there are simply people who humble themselves to God and people who rebel against God.  Anyone who humbles themselves to God has some value in God’s kingdom regardless of who they might be in this world.

What do you think this passage reveals about Paul as a person?  Was he the arrogant, chauvinistic, and elitist man that people like to claim him to be?  How does this passage inspire you to see people?

Second Thought:
Paul had plans for Onesimus.  Paul states quite clearly that he would have loved to keep him.  Paul could have certainly put him to work with respect to the spreading of the Gospel.  Again, this can speak to the way that Paul sees people.  Even though Onesimus was a slave, there were tasks that he could have accomplished for towards the proclamation of the Gospel.  Nobody is too small in stature or position within the kingdom of God.  We all have something we can accomplish.

Do you ever consider yourself too small to do anything meaningful for God?  Do you consider yourself too lowly in position, popularity, or influence to have any impact upon this world?  How do you think Paul would respond to such thoughts?

Third Thought:
Paul wants to give Philemon the opportunity to do what’s right by choice as opposed to obligation.  At first, it might seem like Paul is trying to manipulate Philemon into doing what he wants.  It might seem like Paul is saying, “We all know what you should do, but it’s really your choice.  But remember, we all know what you should do and we’ll be watching.”  However, I don’t think this is at all what Paul is attempting to accomplish.  What I believe Paul is attempting to do is to genuinely give Onesimus an opportunity to see Christianity at work in someone besides Paul.  He is trying to give Philemon the opportunity to work through love and let Onesimus’ former master show God’s love to Onesimus.  This isn’t really about Philemon’s choice as much as it is allowing Onesimus the opportunity to see how God’s people work together for the glory of God.

What is the value of having Philemon be the person who shows God’s love to Onesimus?  Why is it important for love, grace, and mercy to come down from the authority figures in our life?

Passage for Tomorrow: Philemon 15-16
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