Reflection on Philemon

Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God's people.

Paul writes to Philemon concerning a runaway slave called Onesimus.

Onesimus had run away from Philemon, possibly stealing some goods. Subsequently he met up with Paul and became a Christian. Paul urged him to return to Philemon with this letter.

Paul pleads with Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother rather than a slave, doing this freely and not under compulsion.

Following Christ changes everything, including relationships, class structures and even economics.

If I have to treat all people as human beings loved by God, I have to show respect and love to all people.

If even slaves are to be treated as brothers then I can no longer treat others as less worthy than myself.

If a slave is a brother, not just a unit of labour then my whole economic outlook is transformed.

We don't have exactly the same economic and social structures in Australia in 2010, but the principles are the same. As a christian can I tolerate any racial group being persecuted or treated with lesser rights than the majority? What about buying shoes or electrical goods produced by slave labour? How do I feel about holidays in countries whose economies are propped up by sex tourism?

As christians we will come to different conclusions on these issues, but we do need to think and pray deeply about them.

Father, show me areas in my life which are not yet transformed by the love of Christ and give me the grace to allow you to change all my relationships.

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