Pentecost +15 - Year C
Verse 6: "I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.
Verse 7: "I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother."
Verse 8: "For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty...."
Verse 21: "Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say."
How does your expression of trust become "effective"?
Philemon had the specific issue of slavery before him as an arena in which love might be expressed. The particular has to do with one Onesimus. Is Onesimus already one of the saints for Philemon, in which case Paul's admonition, command, isn't needed? Is Onesimus, at best, a second-class saint and the cultural mores take precedence over a new inclusive community? In such a case Paul does need to reframe the range of "neighbor" to Philemon.
This raises issues of the base range of who is considered a saint, who is a neighbor, and is very important and cannot be left to a quiet, patient love, but to a loving command.
There have been all manner of distinctions made as to who is a saint and who is not; who is in and who is out. Paul leaves it at the same place Jesus does - you are to do more and greater things than you have done before, than others are up to at the present time. Whatever the particular current issue dividing the body -- theological (Arminius v. Calvin), identity (sexual orientation), economic (class), cultural (immigration), . . . . -- a question of what is "greater than the status quo" or what passes for common-sense must continually be raised.
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Yesterday Amy Someone asked about the comment made here three years ago and asked about including it in her sermon. Here is the link to the last comment we made: Philemon, 2007.