Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Philemon, Day 1 Readings

Everyone Is Useful in God's Household   

Today's reading is the short and brilliant letter of Paul to Philemon.  This letter tackles a huge problem in the early church with both tact and firmness.  Slaves were a matter of life in the Roman empire, and slaves quickly became a part of some early congregations in cities throughout the empire.  Christian teaching suggested that all people were equal in God's eyes; in law and custom, though, slaves were not equal to others.

Paul puts his own prestige on the line for a runaway slave that he calls Onesimus, which literally means "Useful."  He obliquely uses the language of adoption, claiming the slave as his own son, but then encourages the slave to return to his master, Philemon, who is a Christian and friend of Paul.  Emphasizing the teaching of love and gratitude, Paul hopes that Philemon will welcome the slave back and, even more, expects that he will treat Onesimus as his brother in Christ.

While Paul's language is full of tact and charm, the lesson is clear.  Slaves are valued by God because all people are valued by God.  The church will only live up to God's expectations if all people are welcomed equally.

Read Philemon 1:1-25  (NIV)   (NRSV)   (CEB)
[links to Bible Gateway open in a new window]

Reading the Bible in Its Entirety

If you are planning to read the Bible in its entirety, you should read Philemon 1 today.