What an incredible week this has been! In our second week of the Bible school, we studied the book of Philemon. The first day, I honestly thought, what can we get out of a book that is half a page long? And the understanding came slowly. But after many hours of researching background on the author and recipients of the letter, the cultural practices, and the context, this letter has come to life. Before reading about the author and the people addressed in the letter, I just read it as simple encouragement to the church. Now that I know Philemon was a slave owner, and Onesimus his slave, the entire purpose of the book became clearer. Paul, a disciple of Christ, was writing to his friend and fellow disciple, Philemon, to ask him to free his slave Onesimus. But the way Paul wrote the letter was not condescending of Philemon, rather kind and gentle.
We can apply this principle to our lives as well. When someone offends us or their behavior annoys us, we should voice our concern but in a loving way. Attitude makes all the difference! After researching this week, I realized how often I am quick to complain or snap at people for little annoying habits. Usually this method isn't too effective – it just angers the other person. But when I choose to respectfully and lovingly confront a friend, they are much more willing to change their behavior. I also find myself sometimes resenting the work I have to do, especially on days when I am super busy with homework and work duties. Then I remember why I'm doing this school: not only to learn about God's Word, but to improve my own character. I need to have a good attitude in all I do. Even internally, kindness and truth are important. I can be honest with myself but at the same time be positive.
I would encourage you to read Philemon if you haven't already. It's a super quick read with tons of good knowledge. Another point that struck me was how he not only addresses Philemon, but also others in the church. This is Paul's way of keeping Philemon accountable. Since Paul sent the letter to the entire church, we know that Philemon had other people supporting him and making sure he made the right decision to free Onesimus. In our society, accountability is crucial. I have seen this many times in my life. I say I will discipline myself – to run 4 times a week, to not eat so many snacks, to spend time in prayer every morning. However, if I tell no one else about this goal, I find myself soon slacking. If I tell a friend what I am aiming for, this person can remind me and push me toward achieving the goal.
As I continue learning and living in community, God is teaching me these important lessons. Reading the Bible is so much more than an obligation or habit – it is one of the major ways God speaks to us!
“Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3