Stuck in the middle

The book of Philemon is named for a church leader in the city of Colosse.  The Apostle Paul wrote him a letter which presented him with many opportunities. Read it here and look for the opportunities:

Here are several I see for Philemon and also see for me and you:

The Opportunity to show Grace - Grace is giving something to someone that has not earned it.  Philemon is being asked to free Onesimus from commitments/consequences that were legit because he had been his rightful slave in a culture where 1/3 of the population were slaves.  Our faith will cost us something.  Are we willing to give grace?

The Opportunity to be Counter-Cultural - Everyone around expected a slave to be punished if they had run away and were caught.  This is especially true if they had stolen something (many people think that verse 17 is referring to that).  Philemon wouldn’t have been looked down on by his peers if he had punished his slave when he returned.  However, the Gospel gave him an opportunity to respond counter-culturally.  What would he do?  How would others be impacted by his decision? 

The Opportunity to live out Jesus Command - Jesus said ‘love others as I have loved you’ (John 15:12).  He laid his life and his rights down in order that we might have freedom.  This is what Philemon is being challenged to do.  Every day, we have the opportunity to lay down our ‘rights’ so that others can receive love and grace.  Do we? 

The Opportunity to see Transformation in another - Onesimus had been changed by the Gospel.  He was a new man.  His was now a brother to Philemon.  Could Philemon accept this or would he still see him as a slave or even as a thief?  Seeing change in others can be difficult especially if we are close.  Are you willing to see others grow? 

The Opportunity to be a Refresher - Paul tells Philemon he was a ‘refresher’ to his church and asks him to continue to be a refresher in this situation.  It is refreshing to see a person live out a Gospel-Centered life.  Do you refresh others?

Philemon was stuck in the middle in-between a mature disciple (Paul), a changed man (Onesimus), his church family and others in Colosse who might not share a biblical worldview.  He would be watched closely by all parties to see how he might respond.  How many times have you been stuck in the middle?  Did you respond by making the most of the opportunity?  Did you decide to please the One that was listed in this text over a dozen times - Jesus?  We don’t know what Philemon actually did with this letter…but it challenges us to do something.