Accepting a slave as a brother – Thursday, 32nd week in ordinary time – Philemon 7-20

The letter to Philemon is all of 25 verses and our text of today will focus on 14 of these verses. Who is Philemon? He is a young well to do Christian from Lycus valley of Asia Minor, probably Colossae. He is greeted with Apphia who perhaps is his wife and Archippus, perhaps their son. Along with them, Paul greets the Church that meets in their house. Philemon was perhaps a convert at the hands of Paul, probably in Ephesus.

Paul is writing to Philemon on account of a slave by the name of Onesimus who was once owned by Philemon. Onesimus had run away from his master causing Philemon considerable damage. It is for this reason that Paul in verse 18 says. “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. “

Onesimus has now takes refuge with Paul who is in prison, perhaps knowing of the esteem that his master has for Paul. Paul converts Onesimus and makes him a helper in the work of evangelization, not knowing that Onesimus is a runaway slave. This truth is manifest by the visit of Ephapras who recognises Onesimus or perhaps, Onesimus makes a confession on seeing Epaphras; realising the game is up.

Paul, on the one had wants to keep Onesimus for the purpose of evangelization but realises that Philemon cannot be deprived of his rights and so decides to send him back(14, ). In verse 14 he says, “I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will.”

It was not that Paul did not need Onesimus, in fact he says, “I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel.” There is something beautiful here. Christianity does not help a man run away from his past; it enables him to face it. Onesimus had run away, Paul sends him to face what he has done.

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