All in the Family…

August 5, 2008

For about the last week or so I have been meditating on Paul’s short little letter to Philemon.  I don’t know how long it has been since you’ve read it, but it had been a while for me so I picked it up again. 

Upon my first read through of the book (all 25 verses) I found myself thinking, “I wonder how this little exhortation to a slave owner got in to the canon of Scripture…”  As I continued to study the book I realized just how important this question is to the book. 

Philemon is a book which addresses one man’s problem.  Philemon had a slave (Onesimus) who had run away, found the Apostle Paul and gotten saved.  In this short letter, carried by Onesimus, Paul pleads for Onesimus’ life to Philemon on the basis of family.  In Christ one who was once Philemon’s slave has now become his brother–a fact that Paul assumes will transform these two men’s relationship.

The reason I believe this book is included in the canon is because of it Ecclesiology (theology of the Church).  Not only is the reconciliation of these two men (which we can only assume follows the letter’s reception) a beautiful demonstration of Christ’s economy, but the whole letter is an invitation to the church to be refreshed by the restrative work of Christ in the family.  It is an call to celebrate together the great redemptive work of God in changing our broken, stony hearts into the fully alive faith community that has been resurrected in Christ. 

Over the past week, this little letter has been confronting me with the necessity of openness and reality in the body of Christ, because only then can Christ be glorified as he deserves.  God help us be open enough to celebrate God’s victory over sin in our lives.


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