In this letter, we read about Philemon, a member of the church in Colosse and his runaway slave, Onesimus. It makes me feel a little uncomfortable reading it, because it’s incredibly personal and speaks about slavery. You’ll notice Paul doesn’t condemn or condone the social structure of slavery, but is speaking to the heart of the people within it.
I love Paul’s leadership style here. He doesn’t lord authority over Philemon and demand obedience (which because of his status in the church, he could). He asks him as a friend, builds him up with encouragement and treats him as an equal. It’s such a reflection of how God leads, too. Gently, with great intention and patience.
I also love the reminder that God has a special place in his heart for runaways. The Bible includes so many beautiful stories of God seeking after people running from their problems. Onesimus caught up with Paul and became a Christian. But Paul points him right back to face his problems, desiring his people to practice repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Tomorrow, we’ll start the book of Genesis, where we meet the first people to run away and hide from their problems. Every time I read Genesis, I see something new and beautiful about the way God loves us and knows us, and I learn more about the importance of the gospel.
Looking forward to it!