“. . . I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 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 more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” (Philemon 14-16)

Paul wrote a deeply personal letter from prison to Philemon, a man he had led to the Lord. He wrote about his runaway slave Onesimus, appealing to him on the basis of their deep relationship to accept the man into Christian fellowship and back into the household, to be restored and forgiven. Paul pointed out to Philemon that despite their difference in social class, both master and slave were brothers and partners for both were followers of Jesus and both supported Paul’s work. Now the time had come to reconcile these brothers who had quarreled, so Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with this letter.

We may or may not object to what Paul did because slavery in all its forms is immoral and sinful. Yet in Paul’s day it was part of the social system, one which no New Testament writer ever opposed or called to be abolished. This is because, those in Christ, whether slave or free are brothers, no longer bound by the control of the social system that had determined their strictly separate relationships. Now, in Christ both the slave and the free are free in Christ yet both are bound as servants to serve Him and His kingdom and serve each other.

In our modern world we should bear this relationship in mind when dealing with other believers. Those who, by faith, are members of the Kingdom of God, are all bound by the law of love, obligated to treat each other as equals, to serve one another in love and with compassion regardless of social status, race, or ethnicity. The Way of the Kingdom of God the is the solution to all the hatred, racism and inequality in the world, for truly in Christ Jesus all are made brethren. We still support just and righteous government and work within the system as long as we are allowed to serve the interests of God’s kingdom first and foremost. When forced to choose we must obey God’s commands. We must never disobey or betray our King or compromise our faith.