Onesimus The Slave

December 2 – Today’s Readings – Philemon and Proverbs 2

“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul — an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus – I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.” [Philemon 8-10]

“If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back – not to mention that you owe me your very self.” [Philemon 18-19]

I feel as though I’ve just opened someone’s mail labelled “PERSONAL / CONFIDENTIAL ” and poked around in his or her private business. This single chapter book is intensely personal and “in your face”. It is a great example of two Christian brothers “doing business” in the things of God. What’s at stake? – Their relationship.

Onesimus, the slave is being sent back to his legal owner. He has accepted the Lord while in service to Paul the Apostle and Paul has obviously invested a lot into him because he really doesn’t want to send him back. My guess is that Onesimus was sent to Paul on an errand – perhaps with a gift and a letter of encouragement while the Apostle was in jail. He overstayed because Paul was busy trying to mentor him. Now Onesimus was late and could be punished severely – so Paul “leaned” on Philemon, the slave owner and fellow believer. Some would call this a misuse of spiritual authority. Some would call it spiritual bullying. Paul didn’t seem to have any qualms about what he said or how he said it. He even went so far as to order up a guest suite so that if he was released and came through town, he would have a nice place to stay! He obviously was quite secure in his relationship with Philemon and felt free to communicate his feelings openly.

Did you notice that Paul also corrected Philemon? 1:6 reads; “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

If Philemon had been more “active” in sharing his faith, Paul would not have had to lead Onesimus to the Lord. Paul thought that this was worth encouraging his “brother” about. What is fascinating to me is that Paul equated the sharing of faith with having “full understanding” in Christ. I believe that there is a direct link between our “sharing” and our revelation of Christ. As we speak, God puts revelation in our hearts. If we don’t step out and engage people, we limit ourselves in our spiritual growth.

My daughter, who is a schoolteacher, tells me that children never really fully learn about the subject matter at hand until they have to make up their own questions about the subject. It is only then that the material becomes “theirs” – they become “teachers”. So it is with the Gospel – it’s one thing to hear it – it’s another thing altogether when we begin to share it with others.


1. Make it a personal goal to share your faith with someone today – if it doesn’t happen today, then go for tomorrow. Share with us how this experience affected you attitude and faith.

Normal Christianity

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