The tension is real
I’m sure I’m not the only one, but there have been times that I have felt as if the message being delivered by the preacher to the congregation was aimed squarely at me. It is as if God Himself has sat me down and said “Look, Ken this applies directly to you today – and you need to do it.”
When Tychicus delivered the letter to the church in Colossae and Paul’s personal letter to Philemon, suddenly Philemon and Onesimus were having one of those rubber-meets-the-road moments. Take a look at Paul’s specific request to Philemon:
For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave – as a dearly loved brother. This is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
So if you consider me a partner, accept him as you would me. And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
This request put Philemon in a position where he would need to apply God’s direction on family matters that was just delivered to his local church:
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.
For Philemon, the tension is real. God’s Word is directly challenging him, and he has a choice to make with how he will respond to God’s directions.
However, a different section of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church would have been more applicable (and challenging) to Onesimus:
Slaves obey your human masters in everything: don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.
For Onesimus, the tension is also real. After everything he and Philemon had been through, would Onesimus humbly take his place and do his work enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord?
God’s Word is just as practical today as it was for Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. As we allow the Scriptures into our lives, we too will be challenged. It will be as if God Himself has sat us down and said “Look, this applies directly to you today – and you need to do it.”
The tension is real. Will we trust God and respond accordingly?