The View From 1776
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Slavery, Freedom, and Forgiveness
Vengeful anger is spiritual slavery from which we are delivered by Christian love and forgiveness.
Sermons this Sunday and last Sunday at Black Rock-Long Ridge Congregational Church (North Stamford, Connecticut) were based upon Philemon, one of the shortest books in the Bible. These sermons were parts one and two of a three-part series on the subjects of duty, Christian love, and forgiveness.
Pastor Steve Treash focused today upon the need, and the immense benefit, of forgiving and releasing feelings of anger and revenge that too often we nurture when we believe that someone has wronged us. Last Sunday’s sermon dwelt upon the paradox of physical slavery and spiritual freedom and of the necessity to face up to wrongs we have done to others.
The book of Philemon is the Apostle Paul’s short letter to Philemon, to be delivered to him by his runaway slave Onesimus. Philemon was a well-to-do citizen of Colosse in Asia Minor, in whose home the church founded by Paul met for worship.
Though Paul does not state it explicitly, the probability is that at some earlier time Philemon’s slave Onesimus had stolen something from Philemon and run away to Rome, seeking physical freedom. There he had come into contact with and been converted to Christianity by Paul, who was then in chains in a Roman prison. Paul evidently had convinced Onesimus that his Christian duty required him to return to his former master, to confront the wrong done to him, and to make amends.
Paul’s letter is a masterly play upon the names Onesimus, which means useful or used, and Philemon, which means loving or affectionate.
Paul writes to Philemon that Onesimus had, by the grace of God, been spiritually transformed:
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul