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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading
Today we read the short book of Philemon. It may be short, but it is noteworthy. So, since we both start and finish reading it today, I will take this opportunity and focus my attention on Philemon.
Let's begin with the backstory (the story behind this book). Paul had labored to bring the Gentiles of Asia Minor to Messiah. During his third missionary journey, there were many converts in Ephesus as a result. One of the people who was converted by Paul in Ephesus was Philemon.
Philemon must have been only visiting in Ephesus, as he is a wealthy slave-owner from the nearby city of Colossae (Philemon 1:19). We know that Philemon was a Christian because Paul refers to him as his "beloved brother" and as a "fellow worker" for Christ.
In Philemon, Paul wrote a letter to this Christian man. One of the main reasons for writing it was that one of his slaves - named Onesimus (pronounced "own-si-mus") - had apparently stolen some money and had run away to Rome.
In Rome, where Paul was a prisoner (around AD 60 or 61), Onesimus had run into Paul, who then lead him to Christ. Following this, Paul sent Onesimus back to Colossae, returning him to his master, Philemon, with a letter which we now know as the Book of Philemon.
The message was simple. Paul urged Philemon to show the same love and forgiveness which God had shown him to the formerly difficult, but now-converted slave. Paul did not minimize Onesimus's sin. But in this letter we see the beautiful transformation we all experience as we transition from slavery to kinship in the love of God.
There are many valuable lessons to gain from the book of Philemon. First, the relationship of Onesimus to Philemon demonstrates the responsibilities in an employee-employer relationship of today. Second, the book of Philemon highlights the importance of forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not come easy and - as in the case of Onesimus and Philemon - many times we are called upon to forgive someone who does not deserve our forgiveness. But, just as God forgives us, undeserving though we be, we also ought to forgive our offenders.
I invite you to think about it... Are there any who have done you wrong? Like Onesimus, have they wrongfully taken something that doesn't belong to them? Have they disrespected your authority? Have they done or said things that shouldn't have been done or said? If so, Paul's letter to Philemon is a call for you today. In Christ, forgiveness is a blessing that is given even to the undeserving. Like Paul, I encourage you to be more concerned with helping that erring one to find Christ than in making them right their past wrongs done against you.
Luke 6:36-37 "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."