Your browser does not support JavaScript. Please enable JavaScipt to view our website.


Return to Sender - Philemon Part 2


What if your reputation was on the line? What if a choice you faced threatened to unravel the world as you know it?

Last week, we read Paul's letter from the perspective of Onesimus. This week, we look at it from the recipient's perspective. From what we can tell, Philemon was a wealthy businessman and key spiritual influencer of the church that met in his home. He therefore had every right to reject Onesimus upon his "Return To Sender." In fact, he had every right to do much, much worse. What is more, NOT to punish Onesimus was probably a risk to his reputation and a risk to the stability of their society's slave-dependent way of life!

What would you have done?

If Philemon took Onesimus back – which is perhaps our biggest mystery to solve this week – you can be sure that it wasn't easy. He could no longer simply be a master, but now a fellow brother and partner in the gospel. Paul appealed to Philemon to take all of his status, his wealth, his power and... "Return To Sender." Everything that he had acquired, in this moment, had to be held loosely so that a new family member could be welcomed in.

You see, relationships aren't so simple. There's no magic wand to turn people divided by chasms of difference into friends. The only way to do this is to "put on the mind of Christ" whose equality with God was not clutched like a possession. There's a wonderful hymn I've learned to sing about Jesus' incarnation:

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
All for love's sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
All for love's sake becomes poor.

Join me in praying that God's Word does its work this week so that we may all learn to welcome others and refresh them.

For Christ and the University,

Jeff Liou
Pastor of College Ministries