Philemon’s Speck and Our Log

Scripture Focus: Philemon 15-16
Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

Reflection: Philemon’s Speck and Our Log
By John Tillman

Between Philemon’s time and now, many have struggled to live out Paul’s challenge to overcome the cultural mindset of slavery. It has been a struggle uniquely led by Christians.

However, when we look to the past, there is a temptation to sneer. Many modern moralists convince themselves that if they had lived in certain ages, they would have been on the “right side” of history and as a result they treat writers of those ages as hypocrites, refusing to learn from them.

This is foolish, arrogant, and is an attitude that is condemned by Christ himself.

Better that we remove the log in our own eye rather than seek to remove the speck from the eye of some deceased writer in another age.

In our own time, Paul’s challenge to Philemon is still applicable. Slavery may not be sociologically acceptable anymore, but it is still economically viable and, as a criminal enterprise, is alive and well. The United Nations estimates that over 89 million people are currently or have been enslaved in the past five years.

And though we may not have slaves, all of us have servants. Even those without in-home staff such as maids, butlers, chefs, or nannies, have an entire service industry taking care of everything we might need. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimated that in 2018 over 131 million people would be working in the service industries.

Our food is prepared for us, our coffee is customized for us, our packages are delivered for us, by servants. Yet our society denigrates manual labor of all kinds, and especially labor in the service industries.

We denigrate and look down on service so much that we use service jobs as a way to scare better grades into our kids. Service jobs are the stick that spurs youth toward the carrot of a better job after incurring massive debt attending college.

Our existence is supported by the labor of people who directly or indirectly serve us, just as Onesimus served Philemon. How we treat those individuals—both relationally and economically—shows whether we consider them part of the economic machinery or spiritual brothers and sisters.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments.— Psalm 119:10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 18 (Listen – 6:52)
Philemon (Listen -2:52)

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Read More about Taking Advantage of the Desperate
How are our socially acceptable, market based, and entirely legal interactions with humans dehumanizing them?

Read More about Slavery, Racism, and a Lone Christian Voice
In the late fourth century a lone Christian voice spoke out against the oppressive institution of slavery in a way that none had before.

Philemon’s Speck and Our Log

Scripture: Philemon 15-16
Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

Reflection: Philemon’s Speck and Our Log
By John Tillman

Between Philemon’s time and now, many have struggled to live out Paul’s challenge to overcome the cultural mindset of slavery. It has been a struggle uniquely led by Christians.

However, when we look to the past, there is a temptation to sneer. Many modern moralists convince themselves that if they had lived in certain ages, they would have been on the “right side” of history and as a result they treat writers of those ages as hypocrites, refusing to learn from them.

This is foolish, arrogant, and is an attitude that is condemned by Christ himself.

Better that we remove the log in our own eye rather than seek to remove the speck from the eye of some deceased writer in another age.

In our own time, Paul’s challenge to Philemon is still applicable. Slavery may not be sociologically acceptable anymore, but it is still economically viable and, as a criminal enterprise, is alive and well. The United Nations estimates that over 89 million people are currently or have been enslaved in the past five years.

And though we may not have slaves, all of us have servants. Even those without in-home staff such as maids, butlers, chefs, or nannies, have an entire service industry taking care of everything we might need. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projected that by 2018 over 131 million people would be working in the service industries.

Our food is prepared for us, our coffee is customized for us, our packages are delivered for us, by servants. Yet our society denigrates manual labor of all kinds, and especially labor in the service industries.

We denigrate and look down on service so much that we use service jobs as a way to scare better grades into our kids. Service jobs are the stick that spurs youth toward the carrot of a better job after incurring massive debt attending college.

Our existence is supported by the labor of people who directly or indirectly serve us, just as Onesimus served Philemon. How we treat those individuals—both relationally and economically—shows whether we consider them part of the economic machinery or spiritual brothers and sisters.

Prayer: The Greeting
Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger. — Psalm 119.54

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 12 (Listen – 2:38)
Philemon
 (Listen – 2:52)

Prayer of Dedication from the USA :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Titus 3.3-5
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

Psalm 80.3
Restore us oh God; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved.

This poetic prayer of dedication from the USA meshes well with our recent reflections on martyrdom. We are living sacrifices. We hope in God even if he slay us. For his sake we are slaughtered all day long, yet not separated from his love. In this we join in his sufferings and in being molded more and more into the likeness of Christ. — John

Reflection: Prayer of Dedication from the USA :: Worldwide Prayer

You broke my body like bread, and you poured out
My blood like wine, and you celebrated my life
Through death was threatening on every side,
And you Made me to be in the likeness of your Son.

Will I not praise you now and forever?
Will I not lift holy hands to the father of my breath,
the brother of my every step,
the mother of my longing heart?
Shall I not dance in adoration to such a God?

May no unholy thing disgrace the presence of my God,
May all who see Him tremble in fear and praise His holy name.
For the Lord is a great God, the King of all the earth;
He looks into our hearts, and untangles all of our confusions.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

The Morning Psalm
He sent forth his word and healed them and saved them from the grave. — Psalm 107.20

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 16 (Listen – 3:46)
Titus 2 (Listen – 2:01)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 17 (Listen – 7:19) Titus 3 (Listen – 2:05)
2 Kings 18 (Listen – 6:52) Philemon (Listen – 2:52)

On Not Wasting Life

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” — Ecclesiastes 12.1

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it,” Seneca quipped in his work On the Shortness of Life. “Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present.” In the same breath, “meaningless!” shouts the wisdom of Ecclesiastes; “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”

Seneca cautioned that life is too often “wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.” Maria Popova links the great philosopher’s work to the modern contrast of business and “the art of living.” In Seneca’s words:

Your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply—though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last.

You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality!

To this the author of Ecclesiastes couldn’t agree more. Why squander our days, our energy, our passions on the meaningless pleasures of this world when we are designed for eternal glory? Why settle for earthly riches when heavenly honors await us? The answer—in Genesis, as in Seneca’s day, as in our time—is that we become consumed in our labor. Seneca writes:

It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously… New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition.

The calling of Ecclesiastes is to reorient our lives to our labor and give ourselves daily to the one that matters most in this life. Christians don’t retreat from labor, nor become consumed or defined by labor, but align our earthly passions with God’s desires. For, as Ecclesiastes concludes, “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.”

Today’s Reading
Ecclesiastes 12 (Listen – 2:38)
Philemon (Listen – 2:52)

A Story of Forgiveness :: Throwback Thursday

Philemon 18

If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Nature is selfish, but grace is loving. He who boasts that he cares for nobody, and nobody cares for him, is the reverse of a Christian, for Jesus Christ enlarges the heart when he cleanses it.

When Onesimus left his master (Philemon) he was performing an action the results of which, in all probability, would have been ruinous to him. If I read the epistle rightly, he had a godly mistress and a godly master, and he had an opportunity of learning the gospel continually; but this reckless young blade, very likely, could not bear it.

Our text may be viewed as an example of relations improved. Perhaps Philemon had not quite found out that it was wrong for him to have a slave. Some men who were very good in their time did not know it. Public sentiment was not enlightened, although the gospel has always struck at the very root of slavery.

The essence of the gospel is that we are to do to others as we would that others should do to us, and nobody would wish to be another man’s slave, and therefore he has no right to have another man as his slave.

Perhaps, when Onesimus ran away and came back again, this letter of Paul may have opened Philemon’s eyes a little as to his own position. No doubt he may have been an excellent master, and have trusted his servant, and not treated him as a slave at all, but perhaps he had not regarded him as a brother; and now Onesimus has come back he will be a better servant, but Philemon will be a better master, and a slave-holder no longer. He will regard his former servant as a brother in Christ.

Let us cultivate a large-hearted spirit, and sympathize with the people of God, especially with new converts, if we find them in trouble through past wrong-doing. If God has forgiven them, surely we may, and if Jesus Christ has received them, they cannot be too bad for us to receive. Let us do for them what Jesus would have done had he been here, so shall we truly be the disciples of Jesus.

*Abridged and language updated from Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermon, “The Story Of A Runaway Slave.”

Today’s Reading
2 Kings 18 (Listen – 6:52)
Philemon (Listen – 2:52)
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