September 6

Philemon 8-25

“Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” vss. 15-16

Slavery was commonplace in the Roman Empire–it had an institutional presence and was unquestioned by the early Christians. It didn’t take long though for their little communities to realize that the message of the gospel just didn’t work in an atmosphere of bondage. Paul didn’t see Onesimus as a slave any longer–in his eyes he was a brother in Christ, and he invited Philemon to see him in the same way. We don’t know how Philemon reacted, but what we do know is that it took centuries for the institution of slavery to be broken down. In fact, in many places Christianity adapted so well to the presence of slaves that Christian leaders became advocates of bondage and claimed that it was the will of God. Some of them even bought and sold slaves without much serious reflection. The economic benefits were too great to ignore. That same kind of resistance to the freedom of the gospel has been widespread–it has been difficult even for followers of Jesus to put aside long-standing practices and prejudices. But where the good news is proclaimed freely barriers and bondages have crumbled and fallen. In Christ there is no slave or free–all are one!

Thought for the Day: Why do humans like to “lord it over” one another?

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