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Philemon 1

Transformative Faith

Reading through Philemon, there stands out to me a particular practicality in this letter from Paul centered around one request, and yet the letter is also full of beautiful reflections of the Kingdom of Heaven and how it transforms lives, communities and culture.

There are times when I sit down to have devotions or spend some time praying, and feel like I’m just getting through the “spiritual” part of my day so I can get to the “practical” parts. Along the same lines, I sometimes struggle to see how to live out my faith during parts of my day, like when I’m working through some boring menial task at work.

But in reading this short letter, I began thinking that Paul, Philemon, Onesimus, and the other believers in the early church are not just adding “spiritual things” to their days. Rather, their faith seems to mainly be lived out in the way their hearts and minds are transformed and the effect that has on every aspect of their lives. One example of this that stood out to me is when Paul writes, “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment . . . I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.” Paul clearly loved Onesimus as a son. Their relationship is no longer shaped just by their worldly identities, but by their new identities given through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul then asks that Philemon receive Onesimus in this same manner; not just as a bond servant, but as a beloved brother.

This letter serves as a good reminder of what my faith lived out should really look like. It should look like transformation. Transformation of the way our broken world tells us we should see ourselves and see others and see God. And that transformation of my heart and my mind has a real and practical impact on the way I go about my days, whether it’s my relationships with others, or just having the wisdom to see the seemingly insignificant parts of my day with a renewed perspective. 

weekly reflection by

Peter Rowe