Today’s Readings: Psalm 122; Ezra 4:7, 11-24; Matthew 12:33-42; Philemon 1-25
On the surface, the book of Philemon represents one of the most disturbing pieces of literature in the New Testament. Why is that? Because of its historical/social context. If you look at the book superficially, you have the Apostle Paul sending a slave (Onesimus) back to his owner (Philemon) after Onesimus has fled. Paul calls in old favors when he asks Philemon to receive Onesimus graciously when Onesimus returns to him.
Sadly, the book of Philemon was used for decades by slave owners in the United States to justify the practice of slavery. That’s why I say the book is so troublesome on its surface.
So how might one look below the surface and pull a worthwhile message out of the text?
Perhaps I’m reaching a bit here, but for me I find that redeemable part in verses 15 & 16 - where Paul wrote: “Maybe it’s all for the best that you lost him for a while. You’re getting him back now for good – and no mere slave this time, but a true Christian brother! (Philemon 15 & 16 from The Message).
What those verses suggest to me is that when we put on the lens of faith, people we use to see one way can suddenly be transformed into something else: if only we allow that process to happen. The boss we use to see as a mean-spirited control freak might suddenly become a mentor to us. The neighbor we use to view as a cantankerous biddy might suddenly become an unexpected friend. Who knows what surprising discoveries we might make when we began to put on the lens of faith?
Today, I would invite you to do just that: put on the lens of faith and see if the people in your life begin to take on new dimensions. Til next time…