1Corinthians 7:21-22 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Messiah. |
Here is an interesting story from the first century C.E.
Onesimus, an escapee slave from Philemon a prominent slave owner from the community of believers of Colossi, finds refuge in Rome where per inadvertence he meets with the apostle Paul, who is at that time in house arrest. While in the company of Paul, Philemon is introduced to Yeshua, the ‘Slave-redeemer’, and becomes a member of the Roman community of believers, as well as a substantial helper to Paul.
Here is the problem now: the Torah commands that asylum be granted to runaway slaves (Deuteronomy 23:15-16). This is practice as old as Abraham who took Eliezer, a Damascus runaway slave under his wings (Genesis 15:2). Roman law on the contrary required that Paul, who is already in trouble with the authorities, immediately returns the slave to its owner. This is a dilemma.
I do not believe in the picture of a maverick Paul who went out of His way to deliberately create problems by breaking man’s laws just to prove a point. Some people even to portray the Master as some sort of radical revolutionary. I believe that picture to be false and the result of one’s own worldview and problem with authority.
In the book of Philemon Paul shows us his wisdom. He obeys Roman law sending Onesimus back to Colossi with a letter to Philemon, asking the slave-owner to show mercy on both him and Paul, and to free the slave of his own volition. Thus we have the Epistle to Philemon. It’s like the story of Miriam who also obeyed the Pharaoh’s command to put her baby in the Nile; she did it, but she put the baby in a basket!
In books detailing the history of early believers, we read of an Onesimus was a great leader in Ephesus, Paul’s personal secretary and the one who preserved the Pauline epistles. Was it the same person?
Whether this is the same Onesimus or not, what will be said of us that WE did with the freedom the Master obtained for us?
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Slave, Onesimus, Philemon, Paul, Colossi,