Dec 20, 2018 1213
Although the book of Philemon is only one page in the New Testament, however it tells us about freedom. It is a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to his friend Philemon about a runaway slave named Onesimus who made his way to Rome in search of freedom.
Throughout history people have sought freedom and they continue to do so today. But as more freedoms are granted, many fail to see the expected positive outcome. Freedom for children often turns them to paths that eventually ruin their lives. Immediately after independence, most African countries sank into unprecedented civil wars and the worst violations of human rights.
Does true freedom exist or it is just an illusion? Is freedom granted by human systems true freedom?
When Onesimus met Paul, who was preaching the gospel of Christ, he was drawn to Paul’s message and wanted to learn more. However, he carried the terrible secret of being a runaway slave, and of having stolen money when he left his master, Philemon.
Onesimus finally realised that no matter how far he ran from his master, he would never be truly free, for he was a sinner. Finally, he confessed to Paul. Paul, who knew Philemon, wrote him a letter.
When Onesimus escaped, fearfully looking over his shoulder, he did not know that God was divinely arranging freedom greater than his wildest imagination. What a contrast! Here is poor Onesimus in search of freedom, and on the other hand, is Paul, a Roman Citizen who previously had all the freedom in the world but chose to be a prisoner of Christ. Onesimus came to experience forgiveness in prison and for the first time discovered how true freedom feels.
In a sense, none of us are truly free. We are all slaves of sin until we encounter the Man of Calvary. If a Roman Citizen could give up all those privileges and find joy in a dark Roman cell, then we should begin to critique our own notions of freedom. Are we truly free? Are we truly rich? Are we truly happy?
It is in prison that Paul redefines freedom for Onesimus. The Bible tells us that spiritually speaking no one is free. In Romans 6, Paul explains that we are all slaves. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Those who are slaves to sin cannot free themselves from it, but once we are freed from the penalty and power of sin through the cross, we become a different kind of slave, and in that slavery we find complete peace and true freedom.
Desmond Ford says this in better language than mine:
Onesimus learned that the Son of God had bound himself with the chains of humanity in order to redeem people like him. He learned that in Christ there was neither’ bond nor free, male or female, Jew nor Greek’. All were one in their Saviour.
As it says in John 8:36,
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
– Pr Bonifresh Muhollo