I will miss seeing you all today as I am at the retreat. As you can tell many of our people are away at our International Retreat this weekend. I am sorry that you could not make it! I trust and pray that your week has been a good one and that you have enjoyed some positive times in your walk with the Lord. Sometimes our busyness gets the better of us and we seem to be always tired and weary. At these times it is crucial that we walk closely with the Lord and put into action the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, meeting for worship and engaging in fellowship with other Christians. When I served in Africa I remember watching a lioness stalking a herd of wildebeests. She was patient and ever watching. She was waiting for one of the herd to wander away and once one did it became easy prey for her. Right before my eyes, and in a flash, the lioness pounced on the lone wildebeest. It was game over and in a very short time the lioness and her cubs were feeding on the carcass. Sadly, this is how Satan often works. He preys on those who think they can go it alone, and as busyness sets in, one becomes tired and careless from a spiritual perspective. We need to be very careful!
Our speaker today is Peter Moore and he is taking us to the very short letter of Paul to Philemon. It is an interesting letter in many ways. Paul is actually writing to a slave owner – a Christian slave owner. The purpose of his letter is to ask for leniency on behalf of a runaway slave who became a Christian following Paul’s ministry. The slave is known as Onesimus. He unwisely stole from his owner and ran away. Under Roman law if the slave was caught his crime was punishable by death. Since becoming a Christian Onesimus was convicted of his sin and under Paul’s mentoring decided to return to his master and face the consequences. This is where Paul intervened. He pleaded on behalf of this repentant and remorseful slave. He pleaded for forgiveness, grace and mercy to a fellow Christian.
This is a wonderful letter to a dear Christian brother that deals with a difficult matter where a person’s rights were considered of great importance. Paul actually loved Onesimus and he became very attached to him as a Christian brother. Paul had fond affection for Philemon too as can be noted in the early sentences of his letter. Yet Paul realized what Onesimus had done and wanted to right the wrong. Paul highlights the change in Onesimus since becoming a Christian. He argues that Onesimus would become a highly valued Christian brother to Philemon if forgiveness was forthcoming. O the power of forgiveness in one’s life! O the power of grace! What would you do if you were Philemon? Forgive? Show grace? Treat Onesimus as a dear brother despite the wrong he had done to you?