What Philemon Can Teach Us About Reconciliation Between Black and White Communities
Start writing a post

What Philemon Can Teach Us About Reconciliation Between Black and White Communities

There's something we're still getting wrong.

What Philemon Can Teach Us About Reconciliation Between Black and White Communities
Personal Photo

In the past two weeks, I have seen the world rally together like never before for the moral cause of racial equality. I've also seen some of the most divisive groups and statements act simultaneous to this. Therefore, there has to be something that we're still getting wrong.

I'll stop now and acknowledge that I have privilege. I don't know what it feels like to fear for my life or to be ostracized by certain people groups or governments. I don't know what it's like to know that my ancestors came from immense hardship and prejudice. I also don't know what it's like to experience the anger that comes from others trying to define me or how much I'm worth. Because of this, I may say or write things that seem too optimistic for the current situation of the world and, therefore, it may seem as though I'm not understanding things.

If this is the case in the following, please know that I stand with the oppressed.

I stand with racial equality. I stand with and believe in the eradication of racism, acknowledging that it didn't end with the Civil Rights Movement. Not in the slightest. I stand with peaceful protests and, while I disagree with the method, I understand that inequality has caused the oppressed to become so angry that, sometimes, they believe the only way they're heard is through violence. Lastly, I stand with those who want a better world for themselves and their children. A world that embraces the differences and beauty of all colors without segregating and defining any particular group(s) as less than or undeserving.

I want to help, not remain complacent in my inexperience of oppression.

The book of Philemon in the New Testament of the Bible can teach us a lot about the preliminary, yet most important, step of reconciliation between any communities. This short book is a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to his friend, Philemon, in Colossae.

Just a bit of background: After a radical transformation and conversion, Paul went from persecuting and killing Christians to working beside them in order to bring others to believe in the name of Jesus Christ. The church in Colossae is one of the churches that Paul started in his missionary travels. One Colossian church was present in the house of Philemon - a slave master whom Paul had befriended and ministered to in the name of Jesus. Because of Paul, Philemon's life was forever changed by the Gospel.

For majority of the letter, Paul urges Philemon to take back a Gentile slave (Onesimus) who ran away from Philemon's household. While Paul does not explicitly state that slavery is immoral, his pleading that Philemon take back Onesimus as a brother in Christ and not as a slave sets the foundation for the legal abolition of slavery. Paul implies that, because Philemon has been changed by the name of Christ, Onesimus should not be punished for going against the law - but rather, that the two should be reconciled in brotherly love.

Roman law at the time would've been on the side of the slave master. It allowed masters to do practically anything they wanted with/to their slaves. It also required that runaway slaves were to be given sanctuary until they were either sent back to their masters or sold to another master. Therefore, Paul was bound by the law to send Onesimus back to Philemon.

However, when Paul sent this letter along with Onesimus to Philemon, he took responsibility for all debts that Onesimus owed and reminded Philemon that he had brought him salvation through the word of God - therefore implying that Philemon was indebted to him, which Paul hoped would be paid by the moral treatment of Onesimus.

Paul had a hand in leading both slave and master to the Lord, hoping that this mutual kinship in the Kingdom of Heaven would produce an affection that eradicated the bondage of slavery and brought together two unlikely people in companionship. By encouraging this friendship, Paul "brings the institution [of slavery] into an atmosphere where it could only wilt and die," (Enduring Word Commentary). The breakdown of the distinction between slave and owner was a small part of solving the problem of inequality, but it was an important beginning in the system's collapse.

We never see how Philemon receives Onesimus. This story also isn't about blacks and whites, but rather a slave and his master who came from the same place, same background, same people group - and yet, they had allowed the law to create a divide between them for a time. In this passage and so many others within the Bible, we see that reconciliation and righteous love are what God calls us toward, regardless of ethnicity or color.

I'm not saying that laws don't matter or that racism can be solved with a heart change alone, but that is arguably the most important part. For change to occur through the law, our hearts have to reflect the laws that we want to put in place. If we claim to champion equality in a legal sense, but our hearts grow callous to another's suffering, we are missing the point.

We don't have to agree on everything. We don't have to agree with the way another person grieves or the decisions people make. But we are commanded to love and serve one another, and that means every person in every situation. Paul's letter to Philemon teaches us that reconciliation is a choice that is done in righteous love, not in spite or force or obligation.

For black and white communities to ever be fully reconciled to one another, we need to act and lead with Christlike love and companionship, rather than arguing about what side is right or wrong at any given period.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Founders Of Color: Rec Room's Dre Taylor On What Blackness Can Look Like And Not Working For Free

"It mattered to me that when we were depicting racial diversity for Rec Room, we showed the broad spectrum of what Blackness can look like."

Rec Room

The world of sustainable fashion is inundated with marketing gimmicks, false advertising, and large corporations cutting corners — Rec Room is the pure antithesis of that.

Keep Reading... Show less

Dunkin' just announced that they'll be releasing their fall menu earlier than ever — set to debut on August 19 — and that it'll include new menu options this season, including a new signature pumpkin spice latte. Let me just say, Starbucks has some fall-menu competition now.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

CBD Lip Balm Is The Calming Presence You Need In Your Life, Trust Me

I tried lip balm, sleep gummies, and an oil dropper from CBDistillery. Here's the final verdict.


CBD has been on making waves within the wellness space for the last few years. Generally related to the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, it's growing easier to find small CBD companies who are making products specifically designed to fit your needs. As FDA rules for CBD production can be a little hazy, it's true that not all CBD products are created equally. That's why it's important to look into the manufacturing of whatever you're deciding to try, especially if you're new to taking CBD.

As someone who has tried a variety of CBD products — some victories, some failures — I was thrilled when CBDistillery sent me a package of their favorites. They included a Broad Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture, their Nighttime Gummies, and a CBD Lip Balm.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Went To Disney For The First Time Since COVID-19 And It's Officially The Cleanest Place On Earth

I stopped focusing on the pandemic simply because, for the first time in months, I felt safe.

After a few months of self-quarantining, becoming suspicious of every cough, and blowing through masks like a medical school student, restrictions due to the pandemic are easing up a bit and businesses are warily reopening. While these public spaces may look the same on the outside, the way they function and operate is vastly different than a few months ago.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 At-Home Therapy Tips You Need, No Matter What Your Therapy Routine Is

Whether you're in a Zoom session or live-chatting, make sure your home therapy space is good to go.

No matter what stigmas you held about therapy before this year, I'm sure 2020 has affirmed that we could ALL use a nice long therapy session. Between wildfires that took over an entire continent, a global health crisis, and what's sure to be one giant circus of an election in the United States, we need help and we need it now.

The fact of the matter is, therapy has been a helpful, valid resource long before the world decided to become one giant dumpster fire. Having a safe space to discuss what's going on in your life, worries you have, and struggles you're facing has become a very normal thing for individuals' mental health.

Keep Reading... Show less

When it comes to wedding planning, each and every detail is customized to the style of the couple. From venue and decorations to food and beverages, nothing gets overlooked — whether your wedding is big, small, or virtual.

The same thing goes for invites, which are getting more and more beautiful every wedding season. If you're looking to customize your wedding invitations, the options are endless... you can add pictures if you wish, opt for fancy artwork, or keep it simple with just text).

Keep Reading... Show less

23 Burning Questions We Have For The Taureans In Our Lives, Answered By A Taurus

The remaining 11 signs took the bull by the horns, and it was a fun and insightful experience!

Jordyn Leach

Lately, I've been digging deeper into astrology and studying my sign. Throughout the journey, it's come to my attention that Taurus are probably one of the most complicated signs - that is, if you're not a Taurus.

To gain a little more perspective on how my sign is viewed by the others, I requested that the participants submit a question in response to the following:

Keep Reading... Show less
Universal Pictures

A music enthusiast like myself has a playlist for every mood. Life's a movie and you're the main character. In no specific order, listen to these songs to feel on top of the world!

Pro Tip: turn your crossfade up to 3 seconds for a seamless transition between each song!

Keep Reading... Show less

It's the most wonderful time of the year again — it's sorority recruitment season! While recruitment can be a fun and memorable experience, it can also take a toll on your mental health, especially this year, considering the special circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few reminders to keep in your mental health toolkit during recruitment week to help keep your mental health at bay during this unique experience.

Keep Reading... Show less

We've all been there. You see that super cute guy on your dating app of choice, his bio is funny, and then, the gut-wrenching feeling hits when you see their political views don't exactly line up with yours. He loves Trump, you can't stand him, or vice versa.

A lot of people will say you can get over politics, but I know from personal experience, as well as this survey, that politics play a huge role in whether a relationship will work or if we're even willing to swipe right on that profile.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments