Monday, May 24, 2010

Doing the Right Thing

Our background scripture for Sunday, May 23, Sunday school lesson is from the epistle of Philemon, more specifically verses 8-18. Philemon was a resident of Colosse who had been converted to Christianity. He held church in his household. One of his slaves, Onesimus, had run away. This grieved Philemon, Apphia (assumed to be Philemon's helpmate), and Archippus. However, it did not matter how upset they became, they continued to do God's will.

Onesimus reached Rome while Paul was in prison. Paul led him to Christ. And, Paul knew the right thing for Onesimus to do was to return to his master. So, Paul wrote this letter to Philemon as an intercession on Onesimus behave. Reasons cited in Paul's letter to Philemon are: 1) Paul had the authority to command Philemon to take Onesimus back into his home, but he preferred for loves sake to make an appeal. Would Philemon be moved by the aged, prisoner for Jesus Christ who had led Onesimus to Christ while he himself was in chains? 2) The name Onesimus means profitable and now, as a believer, he is useful to Paul and Philemon; but, in returning to Philemon, he will be a much more profitable slave; 3) Paul had become closely attached to Onesimus for he was sending back his son in the ministry, his own heart and personal preference would have been to keep Onesimus; 4) Paul would not force kindness from Philemon; 5) Onesimus departed for a season and now his conversion requires spiritual maturity that Philemon should receive him back forever; 6) Philemon would receive more than a slave by taking Onesimus back into the household, he would be receiving a beloved brother in Christ; 7) If Philemon considered Paul as a partner in Christ, then he should receive Onesimus as such; and 8) Just as Jesus charged our sins to his account, Paul is willing to accept responsibility for any debt that Onesimus might owe to Philemon.

According to Christ in the model prayer at Matthew 6:12b, "...we are to forgive our debtors." Paul elevated it in his intercession by letting Philemon know he would have to prove his forgiveness to a new convert as his master and as a leader in his church.

Written by Deborah Davis

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