3D Devotional 9.6.2019

3D Devotional: September 6, 2019

Philemon 1-21 NRSV

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, 2to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God 5because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. 6I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. 7I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.8For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty,9yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love-and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. 15Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother-especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Most of us know this letter from Paul to Philemon is requesting that he receive his slave Onesimus back as more than a slave but as "a brother." However, there is a great deal more to the letter than the issue of slavery. Allow me to say that Paul is often unfairly criticized for his stance on slavery. Personally, I think Paul's primary concern is for the beginning of the New Age and not for addressing and changing social inequalities. Any justice and social problems would soon be set right by the New Age. Notice that Paul uses sound arguments to try and persuade Philemon to do the right thing. He does not invoke law or try to play upon guilt in order to have Onesimus freed. It is abundantly clear that Paul wanted Philemon to honor their new tie as Christians above and beyond any legal or social demands. This whole situation and especially their relationship was to be conditioned by love, not law or guilt, now that they were linked by faith.
The church community at Colossae is believed to be the area that Philemon and his family were actively engaged in the life of the house church. The church  was fortunate to have a host home where the fledging church community could meet. Stated church buildings would come only in the future; the third century to be exact. The church community in the beginning promoted its mission  through gatherings in homes. Homes were central to the tasks envisioned, the place where worship and learning could take place and fellowship could be experienced. Churches in our time are discovering anew the importance of small group life in teaching, in learning, and in community ministry. A church gains something vital when cells of believers can meet for prayer, Bible study, or fellowship in a home setting. Despite the conveniences afforded in other places available for congregational uses, it is in the house that openness beckons, love is promoted, unselfishness is modeled, intimacy deepens, encouragement is gained, and integrity is nurtured.

Holy God, help us to open our hearts and homes to the work of your grace. May our lives be open to your love. Begin this O Lord, in us in our homes. Amen.

Ken Casey

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