February 21, 2015

Stage Three: The Spiritual Young Adult

Philemon 8-16

“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” - Abraham Lincoln, 1864

In the Roman Empire, estimates suggest that there were sixty million slaves who were treated like produce, free to buy and sell. The average slave sold for five hundred denarii. According to Acts 22:28, a master could free a slave or a slave could buy his freedom if he could raise the money. It was during this time, and in this imperfect world, that Paul wrote to Philemon, his friend, disciple, and, yes, a slave owner. During that day and for over a thousand years to come, slavery was simply a way of life.

After completing the greeting and pleasantries, Paul quickly segued into his primary objective: interceding for Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus. Paul proceeded to present a master class on diplomacy and persuasion. He appealed to Philemon’s Christian values and gracious character in the hope of not only preventing Onesimus from being severely punished for running away, but instead be completely released from his bondage to become a fellow brother in Christ. Can you imagine what must have been going through Philemon’s mind as he read this?

As Christians, we will struggle with what secular society considers normal and acceptable behavior as compared to the standards set forth in God’s Word. Humans are quite adept at justifying their actions by saying, “Everybody does it.” Correction doesn’t come easy or overnight. Fortunately, God has given us the Bible, the Holy Spirit, godly servants and ministers to help us navigate the murky waters that elude the pathway to being “in the world, but not of it.”

How do you respond to correction? Do you give excuses? Are you overly defensive? Is there someone in your life who holds you accountable for your actions? Part of the spiritual maturing process requires recognition of wrong-doing and the willingness to make necessary changes to become more and more like Christ every day.