PHILEMON: Slave or Brother

Paul’s Letter To Philemon

We know that the Apostle Paul was a letter writer. We also know that Philemon was the recipient of one of Paul’s letters. The shortest of Pauls letters to be exact. This letter that we are going to discuss was presumed to be sent while Paul was in jail. Philemon had heard Paul speak in Ephesus and become a Christian in this time. He became the host for a home church. Philemon was also a slave owner, and his slave’s name was Onesimus, also a believer in Jesus.

Appealing To The Heart

We see that Paul starts his letter to Philemon by appealing to the good that he has heard about him. Paul was very good at getting his readers attention and pointing out the good before addressing what could be changed.

Philemon1:4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6: “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.”

Paul did not openly condemn slavery that we know of. However, it is made clear through Paul’s letter to Philemon that he is trying to change the relationship from owner and slave to brotherhood. This is the purpose of the letter. Let’s get to the heart of Paul’s message.

Onesimus Runs Away

Onesimus has robbed his owner and run away. In his running, he has met Paul, and Paul is now telling him to return to his owner because this is the right thing to do. We don’t know when Onesimus became a believer, but Paul clearly states that he is a brother in Christ.

Philemon 1:15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no 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 fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

Urged But Not Instructed

Philemon is urged but not instructed to see Onesimus differently than before he had run away. Paul is asking that he see him as brother, as worthy, as a son of God. It seems that if Philemon could see and accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ, then his title of slave would be diminished. How can we live a life of love, Christ’s love, if we are treating others as our property. If you look at slavery through the eyes of Jesus, how could it be so? If Paul could touch Philemon’s heart and get him to understand the love that Christ had for Onesimus was the same love that Christ had for him, slavery would have to start to disappear. One brother could not OWN the other.

We can see in this letter that Philemon has a choice between law and grace. By law, he has every right to punish Onesimus, his slave, for stealing from him and running away, but if he looks at the situation from the eyes of the Lord, he has only one choice; grace. We see in verse 18 that Paul is being an example of Christ’s love for Onesimus in his own right.

Philemon 1:18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.

The Outcome Is Not The Point

We don’t get to see Philemon’s response to Paul, and I think that is ok. I don’t think the idea was to see what Philemon does and then judge good or bad on how he did. I think the idea of Paul’s letter was so show us an example of how we as humans should be treating any other human, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.

What Does This Mean For US?

So how does this apply to us, and why do we care that it was important enough to be in the Bible? Well, let’s see. Each and every one of us has, at some point in our life, been employed. You may be the boss or you may be the employee, either way God is speaking to us in this letter. We may not be OWNED by our employer or OWN our employees, but there is some authority in a workplace.

Employees, all employees, but especially those brothers and sisters in Christ, should be treated respectfully. They are created in God’s image the same as you and I. Likewise, employees, your boss may not always be kind, but we are to show grace and forgiveness. The world is not a place that God created for us to use one another to get where we want or think we need to be. You don’t have a right to use another human being as a stepping ladder to climb to the top. Employees, we are not to steal from or hinder the advancement of our employer either. There should be a mutual relationship of hard work, love, grace and forgiveness. There will come a time that we are called to judgement for the way that we have treated ALL people.

Don’t Use And Abuse, Instead Love And Honor

Let the words of Paul to Philemon soak into your own heart. Is there someone that you need to apologize to? Someone who deserves some of God’s grace and forgiveness from you? Just as Paul is telling Philemon that Onesimus is more to him than just a slave, he is his brother. He is also telling the same to us. Those around us are not to be used and abused when we feel like we deserve more. They are to be loved and honored.

Let us pray: God we know that your word is filled with stories, letters and examples of life so that we can learn your heart and know your will. We pray that you would open our eyes and our hearts to yearn for the same things as yours. We pray that we would look at others as our brothers and sisters in Christ and treat them as such. Thank you for the reminder, and thank you for your forgiveness we make a mess of things. In Jesus name, AMEN!

 

Don’t Tell Me To Cover Up

I Was An Attention Seeker

I remember as a teenager choosing my clothes. Oh man, I wanted to look “Good”. Don’t we all? I liked my body and thought that I looked good in most things. My body shape made me feel comfortable in pretty much whatever I wanted to wear. I won’t lie, there were times that I thought I could use this to my advantage. At certain points in my adolescents I was an attention seeker.

When I look back now, it really is quite odd to think about my “style” in 7-10th grade. I was a tomboy for one, I loved to wear basketball shorts, warm up pants, baggie t-shirts, my hair thrown up in an unwashed mess and that was that. I could have cared less what most people thought that I should be wearing. These were the times that life was good. Grades were good, home was good, friends were good. There wasn’t much that I could complain about. I was comfy just being me.

The Shift

There was always a shift for me. I would go from tomboy to major girl. Hair completely done up, make-up, dresses, skirts, cute shirts. All of it. The difference was that I only had the urge to get completely ready when I felt like part of my life was lesser than. I would wear short dresses, short skirts, short booty hugging shorts, and mid-drifts. I did it because I was craving attention. Let’s be honest, I did it because I knew that I could and that someone would pay attention to me. It didn’t always call for good attention either. But it served it’s purpose. This was me probably 25% or less of the time, but still me none the less.

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I just had to share this!

I can look back now and see the that guys that I actually wanted attention from liked me when I was just being me. It didn’t matter what I was wearing. The guys whose attention I didn’t want, was the attention I was getting when dressed less modestly. They liked me because they thought that I was “easy”. Clothes portray an image whether we want them to or not. It is a fact.

My parents were divorced and my dad lived in a different state. There definitely wasn’t a good relationship with my step-dad at all and I really wanted a male to see that I was there. I didn’t act out, I wasn’t promiscuous. I was a flirt and dressed like one when I was feeling low and alone. It was my way of making myself feel better. It sounds so rash now as an adult but when I was young it seemed to make sense. I wanted to feel noticed and this was how I did it.

What I See Now

Now as an adult I see all these girls who are dressed to lure much like I was and I don’t know what to think. I don’t know if they are hurting like I was or if they just like to dress this way. Maybe it has just become “normal”.

We had a sex talk night with the teen girls at church and I brought up modesty. I brought it up because the girls complain about the “type” of attention they are receiving from guys and I want them to understand that how they present themselves makes a difference as to how they may be treated or reacted to. Guys are asking for nudes, asking for pretty much whatever they want over text. Times have changed and although this may not be taken well it needs to be said. The girls that dress less are the ones that are asked for these things more. The guys seem to think that if you are willing to show  off certain parts of your body in public than you must be willing to show more in private.

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It Wasn’t Taken Well

It wasn’t taken well by all. Some of the girls felt that I was saying that when they dress with shorts that are too short and shirts that show a lot of cleavage that they are inviting rape and sexual abuse from men. This is NOT at all what was being said. I would never blame anyone if they were raped or abused. The victim is not at fault no matter what they are wearing or doing for that matter.

I simply want there to be an understanding that there is a correlation between what we wear on the outside and the way the guys and other girls are going to perceive us. For example if you don’t want a guy to stare at your chest, cover it up. If you don’t want guys staring at your butt, cover it up. If you don’t want guys whistling at you, cover it up. I’m never saying, don’t be proud of your body, don’t be comfortable in your own skin or don’t have good self esteem. I’m not even saying don’t wear clothes that you like. I am simply saying that whether it is fair/right or not, what you wear makes a difference when it comes to your image.

I know this, I experienced this. The reason I told you all about my self first was so that you would know that I am coming from a place of understanding and not judgement. I do care what you wear because I care about how you are portraying yourself. I love you and I cherish you and because of this I  worry about you, but I’m not judging.

Why We Say, “Cover Up”

It was brought to my attention that us older women should stop telling the younger girls to cover up. When we say to you, ” cover up” it’s because we love you and want to protect your image. We want to keep you safe from those who may think that you are willing to be more open than you actually are.

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What about the Bible?

For those of you who are wondering what the Bible has to say about clothing, it actually doesn’t specifically say much. It does however say this in 2 Timothy 2:9 – Women should adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and sensibly in seemly apparel…

I would take this to be saying that we are to be exactly as it says; modest and appropriate with our clothing. To me this doesn’t mean that you have to be covered from head to toe. It doesn’t mean that you have to wear things that are boring in design or color, but I do believe that our clothing sends a message about what is important to us.

A Matter Of The Heart

The Bible talks about being known for our heart not our outward appearance as well. When we are worrying about our heart and what people are going to see then it would make sense that we worry about others. Is what I am wearing honoring to those around me? Is it making other uncomfortable? Am I drawing too much attention to myself? Am I exposing an inappropriate amount of skin, no matter where it may be? If I saw myself walking by would I have something nice to say or would I make a snarky comment under my breath, like we do so many times to others?

We have to remember that it isn’t sinful to show our stomachs, but it is distracting, especially to the males that will be in our presence. When we use our hearts to think, we then become aware that we may be helping someone to have lustful thoughts about our bodies. Their sin is their own, yes, 100% but that doesn’t mean that we don’t play roles in others sin, whether on purpose or accident.

Modesty is not just about what we wear it is also about our hearts and modesty is BEAUTIFUL!

You May Be Upset

I know that this is a controversial topic and I know that there will be some who are upset and that is ok. I am sorry for the offense. It is really just my intention to cause thinking. To maybe in some way reach a heart that never thought about modesty in this way. It isn’t about clothes shaming anyone, or telling you what to and what not to wear.

I know that clothing has been an issue since the fall of man. I don’t think that I can change it, but make a difference? Maybe.

Feel free to leave me your thoughts whether you agree with me or not.

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