페이지 정보작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-11-27 15:57 조회922회 댓글0건
Philemon 1: 8-20
Most people embark on a business venture through partnerships. The late Ju Young Chung, the founder of Hyundai Group, and the late Byung Chul Lee, the founder of Samsung Group, started their businesses as a partnership and eventually nurtured their ventures into a large corporation. Meeting a good partner can make one’s business succeed beyond all expectations. However, selecting a poor partner will eventually lead to great capital losses and failure.
In Webster’s dictionary, a “partner” is listed as ‘one who joins in an activity with another or others; specifically one of two or more persons jointly owning a business.’ For us, as Christians, there is a very good partner whom we can do business with. Our partner is Jesus Christ. No matter what endeavors we may undertake, having Jesus as our partner will surely and undoubtedly lead to good things. Our business will blossom. A great miracle and blessing will await us. This morning, I hope that each one of you understand the fact that Jesus is a good or rather, the best business partner of ours.
A theologian named Randy L. Maddox expressed the essence of John Wesley’s theological philosophy as such: “Without God’s grace, we cannot be saved; while without our grace-empowered, but uncoerced participation, God’s grace will not save.” The reason for my preference of Wesley’s theology is that Wesley recognized both God’s work and man’s work as having 100% influence on human salvation. Pelagius stated that a mutual cooperation between man and God where each expend 50% of effort would lead to salvation. John Calvin of Presbyterian denomination stressed that God’s grace and abilities are enough to bring forth salvation. In another words, Calvin believed that if God were to expend 100% of the effort, man did not have to do a thing in order to be saved. Such thought discounts the notion that man is a creature with free will, a being with inherent responsibilities for self-improvement; rather, it lends credence to the belief that man is a passive animal who leads a slave-like existence, powerless act under his own accord and unable determine his own destiny. The Methodist church believes that while God’s grace plays a complete, 100% role in determining the fate of man’s salvation, a true salvation cannot take place without man’s complete, or 100%, involvement. In my sermon, I wish to avoid any further theological arguments. Rather, I could like to stress the fact that while we live on this land, on earth, God is our good partner, the sole business partner we can depend on.
One of my favorite passages out of the Bible comes from John 5, verse 17. “But Jesus answered them, ‘My father has been working until now, and I have been working.’” Because God works, His son Jesus Christ works beside Him. Therefore, it is only right that we, those who believe in Christ, work alongside Him. We must become good business partners with Jesus Christ. We must become workers who work alongside Him.
Today’s scripture, which comes from the Book of Philemon, mentions a man who changed his fortunes after meeting a good business partner Jesus Christ. The man was called Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave of a Christian named Philemon. This Onesimus betrays his master and escapes. Not only did he escape, as it is mentioned in verse 18, he steals money from his master. According to the Roman laws of the day, Onesimus committed crimes that were punishable by death.
Onesimus was an outlaw, a fugitive sinner who, as a slave, ran away from his master and committed theft. He was eventually caught by the authorities, and while in prison, met Paul. After meeting Paul, Onesimus learned about Paul’s partner, Jesus Christ, and converted to Christianity. Like Paul, he made Jesus his own business partner, and Onesimus began changing his life day by day. From the status of a lowly slave, he became a loving sibling to many. From a useless criminal who stole from others, he became a man that benefited others. From a convicted felon who violated one of the most sacred laws of the land, he became a true free man a born-again Christian. In short, Onesimus changed the course of his life and his fortunes by meeting a good partner in Jesus Christ.
The Epistle of Philemon is a personal letter from Paul to Onesimus’ master Philemon that listed few very personal favors from Paul to Philemon, as Onesimus was being returned to his master. The Epistle of Philemon is the shortest of Paul’s letters, composed of 335 Hebrew words. Although the Epistle of Philemon is short, this is one book that vividly and lucidly illustrates the dramatic changes that takes place when one becomes business partners with Jesus Christ.
1. The need for a business partner arises based on dearth of resources or other crucial ingredient. Business owners often seek partners when they cannot run their business independently that is, resources or something else is lacking to allow them to autonomously run their own business. For instance, they may need additional capital that they do not have access to; they may lack critical experience; or they may lack technological knowledge. When one has enough capital and resources, experience, and technological knowledge, there is no need for a business partner. One would, naturally, run his own business.
Likewise, we need a spiritual business partner in Jesus because we are lacking. We need Jesus because we are sinners in front of God. We just do not have enough abilities and strength to undertake any endeavors on our own; hence, that is why we need Jesus’ help. Jesus speaks in Matthew 9, verses 12 through 13. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but who are sick…For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” It is true. We need Jesus as our partner because we are not perfect and righteous. Contrarily, we need Jesus because we are sinners, ignorant, unable, and weak.
What type of man was Onesimus? He was Philemon’s slave. Not only was Onesimus his slave, he also was a slave who stole his master’s money and ran away. During the days of Disciple Paul, the rules and laws governing slaves were harsh and spartan. Slaves were treated not as a person but as a property. Furthermore, there were no limits on punishment, as mandated by law, levied on runaway slaves. According to the ancient Hebrew manuscripts, there are records of crucifixions for runaway slaves.
Onesimus was a slave of extremely low social stature. He was a thief who stole his master’s money. To boot, he was a treacherous slave who escaped from his master’s estate. This treacherous, thieving slave was caught and imprisoned; while in prison, the fugitive slave met Paul by coincidence. After meeting Paul, Onesimus’ life took a 180-degree turn. Paul’s partner, Jesus, transformed the sinning fugitive slave Onesimus into a true Christian.
In verse 10, Paul refers to Onesimus as “my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains.” Onesimus became a spiritual son to Paul in prison. In verse 12, Paul also refers to Onesimus as “my own heart.” These verses vividly illustrate how much of a true Christian Onesimus became. While incarcerated, Onesimus became Paul’s right hand man someone who, like a limb, was precious beyond all possessions. Paul wanted to keep Onesimus at his side as long as possible; however, according to the Roman law of the day, that would require permission from Onesimus’ master, Philemon. In verses 18 and 19, Paul reassures Philemon that Paul himself will be responsible for all monetary liabilities that Onesimus accrued against Philemon in short, Paul would pay for all damages and liabilities that Onesimus caused. This shows the trust, confidence and love that Paul had for Onesimus.
When one becomes a business partner of Jesus Christ, one becomes a servant of Jesus and not a servant of this world. A servant who served the secular world transforms into a holy servant who serves the Master in the Heaven. A fugitive becomes a free man. Onesimus, who was full of sin and weaknesses spiritually and physically, became a denizen of Heaven and God’s servant after he made Jesus his partner.
We need Jesus as our partner not because we are perfect. We do not need Him as our partner because we are abundant. We surely do not need Him because we are perfect. In contrary, we need Him because we are imperfect, lacking, and full of sin. It is listed in the First Epistle of Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 27 and 28. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.” Those who are perfect and righteous do not need Jesus as their partner. Only those who are sinners and imperfect can call Jesus their partner.
2. When one makes Jesus his partner, he becomes useful and beneficial to others. The name ‘Onesimus,’ in Hebrew, means profitable, beneficial, or useful. Look in verse 11, where the Paul states, “who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and me.” Paul cleverly uses the meaning of the name ‘Onesimus’ to compare and contrast the changes in Onesimus from past to present.
In truth, Onesimus led a life that betrayed the meaning of his name. He was a no-good slave who betrayed his master Philemon and stole his money. In view of the Roman law and customs of the day, he was truly a useless man, a pariah to the society. However, while in prison, he met Paul and received his partner, Jesus. A useless, harmful pariah became a beneficial man to Paul, Philemon, and countless others. In verse 16, Paul implores Philemon to greet and treat Onesimus not as a slave, but “as a beloved brother.”
What happened to Onesimus afterwards? According to the letters of Igantius of Antioch (35-107 AD), a priest of the early church, Onesimus went onto become a bishop of Ephesian church in early 2nd century. Furthermore, he accumulated and published the letters of Paul, which consist over 1/3 of the New Testament. Included in these letters are the letters to Philemon, which vividly illustrate Onesimus’ transformation. This was a startling transformation, indeed. Onesimus, who was a useless pariah, transformed into a man who would do great things for Christianity.
It is stated in 2 Corinthians 5: 17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Those who become partners of Jesus will be born again as a beneficial and useful man for God and humanity.
3. Those who become partners with Jesus will experience indiscriminate success in all their endeavors. Dead-ended personal relations will uncoil and improve. In the letter to Philemon, there are three main characters. The triangular relationship between these characters is the main theme of the Epistle of Philemon. When Paul writes to Philemon regarding Onesimus, he is asking all three people for a very difficult favor.
For Paul, it was excruciatingly difficult to say good-bye to Onesimus, who served Paul with greatest of commitment in prison. It was probably like losing a limb for Paul. For Philemon, it would have been extremely difficult to forgive a slave who stole from him and ran away. It would not have been easy to forgive. For Onesimus, it would have been awkward, if not difficult, to face a man his master Philemon whom he had betrayed and stole from. It would have required a great deal of courage. In a way, all parties involved from Paul to Philemon to Onesimus could have been emotionally hurt and scarred had some misunderstanding surfaced to wreak havoc on the already delicate and precarious situation.
But all three people were partners with Jesus in their collective endeavor called life. All three had a common denominator. All three people were already indebted to Jesus before they were indebted to each other. Because of their partner Jesus, their delicate and precarious triangular relationship carried on smoothly, without a glitch or a snag.
According to verse 19 of today’s scripture, Philemon seems to be a man who had converted to Christianity due to Paul’s evangelism. In a way, Philemon owed one to Paul he was indebted of love. Onesimus stole money from Philemon, his master.
Therefore, not only was Onesimus legally indebted to Philemon, but he also owed Philemon a debt of forgiveness, love, and gratitude. While in prison, Onesimus became a crucial piece of Paul’s life as his right hand, his own heart. He looked after Paul in prison in every way possible, ensuring that Paul had maximum amount of comfort allowed in prison. Therefore, Paul was also indebted to Onesimus the debt of love. Within their partner Jesus Christ, Paul, Onesimus, and Philemon were indebted to each other the debt of love and forgiveness. All three of them had a debt of love against Jesus that they could not repay. Because of Jesus, they were able to reconcile, forgive, and love each other.
Philemon and Onesimus could have been archenemies under the laws and customs of the Roman Empire. Paul, who looked after the runaway slave, could have become a thorn in the eyes of Philemon, the slave’s master; furthermore, Paul could have been forced, had Philemon pressed the issue, into compensating for damages and monetary liabilities that Onesimus caused. Yet all three of them were partners with Jesus, and through Jesus their human conflicts of misunderstanding and mistrust melted away.
I believe interpersonal relations especially the damaged or knotted relations will work out for all people who become partners with Jesus Christ. Jesus gives us the intellect and the abilities to solve any types of problems. He gives us the strength to forgive and to love. All endeavors and human activities will succeed and prosper under our partner Jesus Christ.
Authors Gary Smalley and John Trent co-authored a book called The Hidden Value of a Man. In this book, the two authors argue that a man wields two swords during the course of his life. The first sword is smelt and cast from silver and represents the power and authority of the man, bestowed by his social stature, position, scholastic background, or other credentials. The second sword is forged from gold and represents the qualities that flow from the man’s inner character generosity, love, warmth, tenderness, and other such virtues.
We need both of these gold and silver swords in our lives. The problem arises when people excessively wield and depend on the silver sword. Because one recklessly wields the silver sword in his workplace, as well as his home, households collapse and families are fragmented. We need both swords during the course of our individual lives. On occasion, we need to brandish the silver sword. But when we brandish the silver sword in situations that warrant the wielding of the golden sword, we hurt others and damage our interpersonal relations. The gold sword brings people together and allows them to reconcile. Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus could easily have drew, wielded and brandished the silver sword in dealing with each other. But they sheathed the silver sword and drew the gold sword. They wielded the sword of mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, love, and unity. People who are partners with Jesus will naturally depend more upon the golden sword.
One day, Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was riding on a train. A train conductor was making his rounds in the cabin, checking the punctured tickets of each of the passengers. When the conductor came upon him, Einstein could not find his ticket. The conductor, who knew that Einstein was a great physicist, smiled and said, “Sir, I do not need to see your ticket. I know that you are one of the greatest scientists in the world. And I know that you are an honest man. You do not need to show me your ticket.” Few minutes later, the conductor, completing his round, passed Einstein again. Einstein was kneeling in front of his seat, looking under the cushions to find his lost ticket. Feeling sorry for his troubles and attempting to refrain Einstein from searching, the conductor said to Einstein, “Mr. Einstein, you need not worry about your ticket. I don’t need to see your ticket.” Regardless, Einstein was adamant about finding his lost ticket. The conductor, confused about Einstein’s seemingly futile determination, asked, “Why do you need to find your ticket?” Einstein answered, “Because if I don’t find that ticket, I am not going to have any idea where my destination is.”
Even though we ride on this train called life, do we know where we’re headed? Where is our final destination? If you are unsure of your destination, then find your lost ticket. For us, as Christians, our ticket is Jesus Christ. Do not let go of that ticket called Jesus Christ. This ticket clearly shows us that our final destination is Heaven. And remember that this is the only evidence that will allow us to disembark at our final destination called Heaven.
But most of all, make Jesus your partner in this endeavor called life. Surprising blessings will await you. You will succeed in everything you do. Your problems, the Gordian knots of your lives, will be solved. Your interpersonal relations will carry on smoothly, like a well-oiled machine. Pray and ask our partner and our ticket to Heaven called Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself stated in John 15: 7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” Amen.
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