Removing the Barriers
September 17, 2017
Read: Philemon 1:8–16
Bible in a Year: Proverbs 27–29; 2 Corinthians 10
He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.—Philemon 1:16
I saw Mary every Tuesday when I visited “the House”—a home that helps former prisoners reintegrate into society. My life looked different from hers: fresh out of jail, fighting addictions, separated from her son. You might say she lived on the edge of society.
Like Mary, Onesimus knew what it meant to live on the edge of society. As a slave, Onesimus had apparently wronged his Christian master, Philemon, and was now in prison. While there, he met Paul and came to faith in Christ (v. 10). Though now a changed man, Onesimus was still a slave. Paul sent him back to Philemon with a letter urging him to receive Onesimus “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother” (Philem. 1:16).
Philemon had a choice to make: He could treat Onesimus as his slave or welcome him as a brother in Christ. I had a choice to make too. Would I see Mary as an ex-convict and a recovering addict—or as a woman whose life is being changed by the power of Christ? Mary was my sister in the Lord, and we were privileged to walk together in our journey of faith.
It’s easy to allow the walls of socio-economic status, class, or cultural differences to separate us. The gospel of Christ removes those barriers, changing our lives and our relationships forever. —Karen Wolfe
Dear God, thank You that the gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives and relationships. Thank You for removing the barriers between us and making us all members of Your family.
The gospel changes people and relationships.
INSIGHT: After reading the book of Philemon, questions sometimes arise such as, “How can I trust a Bible that tolerated slavery?” and “When Paul had the opportunity to condemn slavery outright, why didn’t he do it?” One thing to keep in mind is that slavery in ancient times was different than our concept of slavery today. For example, in the Roman Empire slaves could work toward and achieve freedom. Paul is actually suggesting a change that goes far deeper than an institution change. When Paul asks that Onesimus be taken back and viewed as a brother, he is ultimately dismantling the mindset that segregates people. The Scriptures deal with how we think and not simply how we act. J.R. Hudberg
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