What an embarrassing book Philemon is to have in the New Testament, especially now that we know how awful slavery is and have gone through such amazing strides in our modern day to fight it. However, I suggest the book isn’t embarrassing at all, but rather demonstrates the true nature of God’s gospel. Onesimus was not set free from the cultural construct of slavery when he or his master became Christians. However, both men were set free from their sins when they became Christians. Learn this: Jesus did not come to save society from systemic evils; He came to save sinners from the wrath of God. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying slavery of any kind or at any time is simply okay with God. Neither am I saying Christians should stand idly by in the face of modern slave trade. I am pointing out that if we spend all our time setting folks free from slavery to people through the pursuit of social justice, we will not have done nearly as much good as if we spend our time setting people free from sin through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the cross. I have no doubt Satan dances for joy when Christians get so distracted by social justice they neglect to pass on the spiritual mercy found in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let’s remember to keep the horses in front of the cart and be amazed at what really spreading the gospel will accomplish long term. After all, slavery was outlawed in the Western World simply because the love of the gospel so affected people that not only believers but even many unbelievers eventually could no longer tolerate it.
Tomorrow’s reading is Philippians 1-2.
A Word for Our Kids
Hey kids, did you catch what Paul knew about Philemon? He said he was bold enough to command Philemon to forgive Onesimus, but because he knew of Philemon’s devotion, he would merely appeal to him. Can I relate this to your relationship with your parents? Do you wait around until your parents command you to do something before you’ll do it? Do you stubbornly resist them until they convince you what they are saying is absolutely right and necessary? Or do you merely respond to their appeals because of your love and devotion for them? More than that, do you respond to their appeals because of your love and devotion to God? Let me encourage you to be more like Paul’s claim about Philemon. Let me encourage you to love your parents, after all they are looking out for your soul and your well-being.
Photo adapted from Graceway Media