Monday, August 30, 2010

Break the chains of slavery.

7Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you,brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
8Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[a] who became my son while I was in chains. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— 16no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
17So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. (Philemon 1:7-21)

Slavery was universal in all ancient nations and the very economic basis of the old civilization. Slaves were employed not only in all the forms of manual and industrial labor, but also in many functions which required artistic skill, intelligence, and culture; such as especially the case in both the Greek and the Roman society. Their number was much greater than that of the free citizens. In the Greek civilization the slave was in better conditions than in the Roman; but even according to Greek law and usage, the slave was in a complete subjection to the will of his master, possessing no rights, even that of marriage.
Paul, as a Jew, had little of pagan conception of slavery; the Bible and the Jewish civilization led him already into a happier and more humane world. The bible mitigated slavery and enacted a humanitarian legislation respecting the ownership of slaves; but the Christian conscience of the Apostle alone explains his attitude towards Onesimus and slavery. One the one hand, Paul accepted slavery as an established fact, a deeply-rooted social institution which he did not attempt to abolish all at once and suddenly; moreover, if the Christian religion should have attempted violently to destroy pagan slavery, the assault would have exposed the Roman empire to a servile insurrection, the Church to the hostility of the imperial power, and the slaves to awful reprisals. On the other hand, if Paul does not denounce the abstract and inherent wrong of complete slavery, he knew and appreciated its actual abuses and evil possibilities and he addressed himself to the regulations and the betterment of existing conditions. He inculcated forbearance to slaves as well as obedience to masters (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22; 4:1; Philemon 8-12, 15, 17; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9). He taught that the Christian slave is the Lord's freedman (1 Corinthians 7:22), and vigorously proclaimed the complete spiritual equality of slave and freeman, the universal, fatherly love of God, and the Christian brotherhood of all humanity.

For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:26-28; cf. Colossians 3:10-11)

Paul's letter is a personal one and can appear cryptic to outsiders. His tactful address to Philemon was labelled "holy flattery" by Martin Luther. Commending Philemon's Christian compassion, but at the same time subtly reminding Philemon of his apostolic authority over him, and the spiritual debt Philemon owes to him, Paul pleads with Philemon to take Onesimus back. Paul notes that because of his conversion, Onesimus is returned "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother" (v. 16).
The German Protestant theologian Martin Luther saw a parallel between Paul and Christ in their work of reconciliation, which is also in fact contained within the concept of Christian Grace.
In our own way, we too are slaves to the situations and possessions in our lives. It might be beneficial during our times of slavery to read this letter from Paul to Philemon. When we realize that slavery can be a state of mind and not and not just a state of being, this letter may offer us the inspiration we need to turn to Jesus to help us break our chains of slavery.

Peace and love,

Sue


"Then Jesus said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me". (Luke 9:23)

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog!

    I would love to get your comments and perspective on some of my recent entries. Feel free to stop by when you have a little time!

    alonganarrowway.blogspot.com

    God bless!

    ReplyDelete