The last specific passage I’d like to notice is the book of Philemon. It’s the story of a heathen slave-turned- Christian-runaway and his decision to go back to his master. You know Onesimus, as the runaway who ran into the great apostle Paul and became a slave to the ultimate Master, Jesus Christ. Notice verses 15 and 16 of this short letter from Paul beseeching Philemon to accept Onesimus back as so much more than a slave. Onesimus was Philemon’s brother in the Lord.
For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
So many observations could be made. Paul, it seems to me, assumed that Onesimus would be very happy to be a brother to Philemon. There would be no resentment. There were no cries for reparations from Paul or Onesimus. Of course in this case, we can also safely assume that Philemon had behaved as a Christian master to Onesimus. It’s interesting and stirring that Paul did not make a specific plea for the freedom of Onesimus from slavery. Perhaps this is because the church (Christians) was to refrain from civil disobedience as we have noted from Romans 13. Paul did expect and demand their love and respect for one another. Of course, their decisions about the master/slave relationship were to be guided by their allegiance to Christ and their love for one another.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)