Sunday, March 25, 2012
Scripture Sunday: The Book of Philemon
Philemon is an interesting one-chapter book of the New Testament. It's a quick letter from Paul to a rich man named Philemon. One of Philemon's slaves, Onesimus, ran away, but shortly after leaving his master, Onesimus became a Christian. Since Philemon is already a Christian, Paul is writing to ask him to be kind to Onesimus when he returns.
I have to confess that I feel uncomfortable with the general topic of this book. As a Christian, shouldn't Philemon have freed his slaves anyway? The Old Testament laws didn't permit Jews to have slaves (though they could have indentured bondservants who went free after seven years of service), but the New Testament doesn't quite address the evils of slavery like I'd expect it to. If I were writing Philemon, I'd be asking the man "Why do you still own slaves? What is wrong with you?" but Paul doesn't take that approach. He simply commends Philemon for his love for the Lord, then asks him to be good to Onesimus, who Paul now sees as a son.