A Change in Status

A Change in Status

Philemon 1:1-25

We are going to do something in church this Sunday that we do not normally do.  We are going to read through an entire book of the Bible in one sitting.  Now before you panic about worship going on for several hours, let me inform you that the book we will be reading is one of the shortest in the Bible.  In fact, it is only one chapter and twenty-five verses long.  It is a brief letter written by Paul to a man named Philemon.  Apparently this man had a slave named Onesimus who had been helping Paul while Paul was in prison.  From the letter, it sounds as if Paul has befriended Onesimus and shared the Gospel with him.

Paul is sending his message to Philemon because he wants Philemon to know how helpful Onesimus was and because he wants Philemon to consider a change of heart towards Onesimus.  Paul asks that Philemon would consider Onesimus no longer a slave, but something better, something like a dear brother.  This would be a radical change in status for Onesimus and put him on a level as an equal with the man who was his master.  

I remember feeling a change in status in my senior year of seminary.  The first two years of seminary my classmates and I had a good rapport with our professors, but it was clear that they were the teachers and we were the students.  After our year of internship, however, things felt different.  In our third year, we served as interns at a church essentially doing much of the work a pastor might do.  When we returned for our senior year back on the seminary campus things felt a little different.  We had more field knowledge and a deeper sense about what we were being called to do.  Our professors actually encouraged us in these feelings and in a sense conferred upon us a new status by treating us more like colleagues rather than like students.  This gave us new confidence as we looked towards becoming pastors.

In the community Christ is building there are no masters and slaves and it doesn’t matter whether you are a teacher or a student.  All are being called to serve one another as brothers and sisters.  Each person has a special status in God’s eyes that is, at the same time, not greater than someone else’s status.  How might this give us more confidence in becoming who God wants us to be?  How might this change our attitudes about ourselves and attitudes towards others?

-Pastor Erik Goehner