11/7 Philemon 1:14

14 . . . but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

Philemon was a friend of the apostle Paul and most likely one of Paul's converts. He was the master of a household with slaves. One of those slaves ran away to be with Paul. Paul convinced the slave to return and carry with him a letter from Paul to Philemon. The letter encouraged Philemon to receive the slave as a brother in Christ and forgive him. If there was any loss because of his absence, Paul promised to pay the debt.

In this brief letter we can see how God expects us to deal with worldly situations. Paul did not teach revolution against the practice of slavery, but rather that being in Christ changed the way it functioned. The slave should work as if he was working for the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-6). His testimony of faithfulness and hard work might win the ear of his owner so that he, too, would be converted. The owner who became a believer was to treat his slaves as people made in the image of God (Ephesians 6:9).

This change in attitude was what ended slavery. When Europe was Christianized, the churches had to decide if they would let slaves partake in Communion. When they decided they could, the logical outworking of that was that slaves were people with rights and not mere property.

We can also see in this letter how Paul tries to persuade Philemon to do what is right rather than use his apostolic authority to order him. He uses reason and persuasion. So we, too, should urge younger believers by loving persuasion rather than compelling them to make changes in their lives.

Consider: Paul's counsel to Philemon is especially relevant to how we teach our children and grandchildren to walk with the Lord. Take a moment to read the short letter to Philemon, and see how Paul used his relationship with him to encourage him to do the godly thing.