Onesimus and Philemon

Onesimus the slave or servant.  Philemon the master.  Paul the friend, the mediator pleads for the safe return and proper treatment of Onesimus upon his return to Philemon.  The story is recounted in Paul’s letter to Philemon, a letter that was sent to the church that met in the house of Philemon, with instructions that it be read aloud to the entire congregation.

Onesimus had left the household of Philemon without permission or without fulfilling his obligations to his master.  There was some sort of dispute, according to Paul’s letter, and Onesimus found his way to Paul during his imprisonment where he served the apostle.  Paul, however, does not permit Onesimus to shirk his civil duties to his master, nor does he allow his master, who is obviously in a position of advantage both in terms of finances and authority, to treat his servant unjustly upon return.  Rather he urges love and forgiveness, reconciliation in this relationship.  Paul asks Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother in Christ upon his return, not as a slave that he owned or servant in his employ. For while our vocations may place us in different statuses in our relationships, as one in Christ, we are obliged by the love of Christ, which is the fulfillment of the law, always to treat one another as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the King in Christ.  And we do this despite our worldly status.

Listen to more on this week’s Sunday School Lesson with Deaconess Pam Nielson of Concordia Publishing House on Issues, etc.

Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?”

This post was originally written June 7, 2011.  In light of the LCMS debate taken public (intentionally or not) over unionism and syncretism, that well worn phrase “All You Need is Love” has cropped up again:  “Share the Love of Christ,”  “You’re not being very loving Confessionals!”  “They will know we are Christian by our Love.”  I think it is time again to pose the question — this time it is directed squarely at those throwing this phrase around so cavalierly and loosely on the issue of syncretistic worship — What is this “Love of Christ” of which you speak?  Here is the rest of the post occasioned on the hearing of a sermon preached at the wedding of that famous royal couple across the pond:

Driving home from Louisville, Kentucky this past weekend, I was listening to a Sermon Review over at Issues, Etc.  It was the sermon given by Bishop Chartres on the occasion of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton last month.  As I was driving on I-65 south in Bowling Green Kentucky, a couple of things that struck me in the sermon.  In particular they can be found in the following excerpts:

The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive. We need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

Reading between the lines, one can make out the shadow of the Trinity in this sermon — God so loving this world that He sent His only Son into it…  to be our example….  the Holy Spirit being made alive by the power of the love in our relationships with one another, with marriage being the most powerful of these relationships — like two magnets being drawn together creating a magnetic field.  Christ is mentioned in this sermon, but we do not need Him.  Instead, we move into our relationships toward others in love — using as our template the love Christ modeled for us.   Continue reading “Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?””