Read Philemon in my quiet time this morning, and in my bible there is a great introduction feature . I wanted to share this one. I use the Application Study Bible, New Living Translation.
At the foreman's signal, the giant ball is released, and with dynamic force and a reverberating crash, it meets the wall, snapping bricks like twigs and scattering pieces of mortar. Repeatedly, the powerful pendulum works, and soon the barrier has been reduced to rubble. Then it is carted away so that the construction can begin.
Life has many walls and fences that can divide, separate, compartmentalize.
Not made of wood or stone, they are personal obstructions, blocking people from each other and from God. But Christ came as the great wall remover, tearing down the sin partition that separates us from God and blasting the barriers that keep us from each other. His death and Resurrection opened the way to eternal life to bring all who believe into the family of God ( see Ephesians 2:14-18.) Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures were littered with barriers, as society assigned people to classes and expected them to stay in their place~ men and women, slave and free, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, circumcised or uncircumcised, Greeks and barbarians, pious and pagan. But with the message of Christ, the walls come down, and Paul could declare " In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us" ( Colossi ans 3:11.)
This life-changing truth forms the backdrop for the letter to Philemon.
One of 3 personal letters in the bible, the letter to Philemon is Paul's personal plea for a slave. Onesimus 'belonged' to Philemon , a member of the Colossi an church and Paul's friend. But Onesimus, the slave, had stolen from his master and ran away. He ran to Rome, where he met Paul, and and there he responded to the Good News and came to faith in Christ. So Paul writes to Philemon and reintroduces Onesimus to him, explaining that he is sending him back, not just as a slave but as a brother. Tactfully, he asks Philemon to accept and forgive his brother . The barriers of the past and new one's erected by Onesimus' s desertion and theft should divide them no longer~ they are one in Christ. This small book is a masterpiece of grace and tact and a profound demonstration of the power of Christ and of true Christian fellowship in action. What barriers are in your home, neighborhood, and church? What separates you from fellow believers? Is it race, status, wealth, education, personality? As with Philemon, God calls you to seek unity, breaking down down those walls and embracing your brothers and sisters in Christ.
I was really touched by how profoundly this book speaks to marriage; how easy it is to get snared in the differences between men and women. We are different, yet called to be always working to understand each other and to find ways to find what shows love to our spouse. I like how the last lines of this introduction to the book of Philemon use the action words - OK ,verbs lol- of seeking, breaking down and embracing. It does take work; it does not come without work. Since the marriage conference our church sponsored almost this time last year, the mini book Sex, Romance and the Glory of God has been sitting on our dresser - finding various homes here and there in our bedroom - but always ending up back on our dresser, and that happens to be where I keep my little collection of books I like to try and grab one of and go to sleep reading at the end of the night. Well that book is about husbands pursuing their wives for the most part, but there is also a part by Carolyn Mahaney about pursuing and knowing your husband. I thought, this is an impossible task! Men do not talk!! Lol But, God has been faithful to show me many things about my husband that I would probably not have noticed on my own, at least not in this timing. And though I still scratch my head trying to figure things out, God does meet me where I am at and He has really used our care group leaders to encourage me to pursue my husband - in every way- pursuing, and not leaving him to himself, so finding a way to squirrel my way in has really become a specialty of mine as of late Ha ha ha I could have stayed with, when he is ready he will come to me but No, they said Pursue. Draw. So, I have been getting creative attempting this, and it has been paying good dividends. We are becoming more of One in Christ and it takes work. May I also add that a part of accepting one another in Christ is to always be forgiving, forbearing, all of the time, and not being quick to take offense? Being different leaves a lot of room for offense if things are left to unfold naturally; being decided to ( is that an actual term?) to not take offense but to pursue and draw makes a huge difference. God has done this with us, and look what happens~ Salvation! We are one flesh with our husbands as Jesus is one flesh with the Father; We have to be ever pursuing this One-Flesh relationship. This is one thing that God has been really pressing on my heart since last February, and then a lot more in June, since then I have really had a lot of conviction about this in the last few weeks. Mostly because various girlfriends and I have gotten into little by the way conversations wondering - and yes, joking- about the differences between men and women. And there are many! A character trait of God that also has been on my heart as I have prayed about this, He does not crush a bruised reed.
Hope this introduction reminds you as it reminded me to be one in Christ and that it requires work to do that. Send me good reports of how all your work is paying off!! :)