Reading: Philemon 1-21
In this short letter Paul is practicing what Jesus taught. Paul is standing up for one of the least. Paul is reaching out to Philemon, a good friend and fellow Christian, and asking him to receive Onesimus back not as a slave but as a fellow brother in Christ. To help Philemon’s decision Paul offers to pay for whatever is has cost Philemon while Onesimus has been ‘away’. Paul is truly living out his faith in no only speaking up for a slave but also by being willing to give sacrificially for him as well.
While we do not live in a time when there are actual slaves, we do have plenty of people who are marginalized and who are trapped by their situation or conditions. We do live in a culture that excludes and leaves some on the outside looking in. We do live in an economy where many are used and exploited. So, no, we do not have slaves, but there are many without voice or power. As Christians, we are called to “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke”. Isaiah 58 goes on to call us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the wanderer.
Paul was able to speak for Onesimus because he knew him. In our daily lives our paths do not regularly cross the paths of the marginalized, the hungry, the naked. To speak and act for them we must go to where they are and seek to know them. It is our call to love and care for the least and the lost. Isaiah 58 reads, “then your light will break forth like the dawn, … your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard”. This day may we seek places and ways for our light to break forth, bringing God’s glory and live to all people.