In it, Not of it - A New Me

Posted by donna on March 4, 2020

One of my favorite New Testament letters also happens to be one of the shortest. The Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon tells the story of an escaped slave, Onesimus, who is encouraged to return to his master, no longer as a slave, but as a brother.

onesimus.pngThe apostle Paul writes to Philemon; “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment ... For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but as more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother” (Philemon vs. 10, 15-16).     

How can this be? What had changed? It was the transforming power of the Gospel in the life of Onesimus. It was seen in both the inward and outward standing of who Onesimus was, and who he now is. That same Gospel’s transforming power that also redeems us and now works in us, through the Holy Spirit to conform us to Christ.

As a runaway slave Onesimus faced a harsh penalty under Roman justice, he was a slave, chattel, belonging to another, lacking personal freedom. That’s who he was. The world saw him as someone to be harshly punished, perhaps even to the point of death.

Who he had become in Christ, was radically different. He was now an equal to his former master, as “a beloved brother.” Paul encouraged Philemon to recognize this, to receive Onesimus back as a brother, no longer a slave. Paul asked Philemon to go against the cultural mores of his time and to become counter-cultural in a good way. Philemon could demonstrate the power of Gospel transformation by laying aside his legal rights and welcoming a runaway slave back into his home as a brother. For most, this would be asking too much, after all, what would others say and think? Philemon was in the world, but NOT of it, because of his transformational encounter with Jesus. He too was changed.

So how did that work out for Onesimus? Writing to Colossian believers Paul says; “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you” (Colossians 4:7-9).  A new Onesimus, a beloved brother, one of us, part of our family.

The result of the transforming power of the Gospel is seen in the inward and outward standing of who I am. I am not who I was, and who I am is being conformed to the image of Christ who saved me and works in me through the Holy Spirit. 

That same Gospel transformation creates a “new me” and a “new you” as well. A beloved brother, sister, one together. Language, culture, education, social status, they all fade away as we recognize and celebrate the union we have with Christ, and with each other. No longer enslaved to this world’s system, we find a “new me” in Christ and are therefore positioned together as part of the body, each member unique, distinct and necessary.

The transforming power of the Gospel frees each of us from the confines and systems of this world and places us in a new relationship with others – brothers and sisters in Christ.

Celebrating the Gospel transformation that draws each of us together as family “a new us”!

Bill Allan first name.PNG

Rev. Bill Allan
AGC President

Cliquez sur le lien ci-dessous pour la version Française: Blogue de Bill Mars 2020