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Philemon: Equality

The United States of America was founded upon some basic truths. The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Equality is fundamental to our nation. But we often do not live up to that ideal. Sadly, even in our churches we see a terrible lack of human dignity. This was true even in the very early church.

Acts 6 describes discrimination between Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews. The division was a simple one, the language they spoke. In everything else they were the same. Yet they could not show impartiality. James has to chide the early church for showing favoritism towards the rich and discriminating against the poor. He calls it a sin to discriminate. We have studied Philemon and seen Paul was very concerned that Onesimus would be treated poorly when he was sent back to Philemon. As such, Paul wants Philemon to see Onesimus “both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.” They were equal.

It isn’t easy for us to walk the talk. We believe the “truths to be self-evident” yet we find ourselves constantly favoring one over another or worse, treating some with disrespect because we don’t believe they are up to our standard. We need to allow God to grow us, that our perceptions of others are such that we see human beings, equal to us. Even in the aspect of Christian verses non-Christian we need to be very careful. They may not be a brother or sister in Christ but they are still God’s creation, they are still someone that God loves and desires greatly to turn back to Him. Our attitudes and actions can greatly hinder or help that other person turn to the Lord. We need to ask God to grow us that our attitudes and actions reflect His love for the world and His children.

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” -1 Thessalonians 3:12