Tag Archives: Philemon

Breaking Down Barriers

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 8, 2018

Philemon title, bible

Breaking Down Barriers

There are many separations or barriers between people today. Barriers of race, gender, color, class, birth, finances, status. Another way of looking at it is right side/wrong side of the tracks, rich/poor, have/have-not. Much less in terms of language(s) spoken, dialect or accent, educated or uneducated. What are we to do? What was Paul to do?

From what I could tell from some reading about Paul and his time and culture, Paul knew very well about these different kinds of cultural statuses and society structures. Sometimes, he would uphold them, and sometimes not. (I apologize beforehand to all Pauline scholars who may read this, and correct me. I fully enjoy learning more! So, please, let me know if I am mistaken.)

Prof. Williams talks about exactly this fact in one of his short chapters in Meeting God in Paul, starting with the mountain of a verse from Galatians 3:28, “There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and free man, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” “Here is Paul saying that there is something you can belong to in which all these different kinds of status are completely immaterial.” [1] Wow. What a statement for Paul to make, given the fairly strict rules and mores of his society. There was a little latitude and wiggle room, but not very much.

Reading this chapter of Williams’ little book, I was struck by the little book (actually, personal letter) of the apostle Paul to Philemon. Paul had obviously been friends with Philemon before, and was communicating long-distance. Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus had become acquainted with Paul in the distant town, and—by Paul’s own account—was now like a son to Paul. Now, Paul was writing to Philemon on Onesimus’s behalf: “11 At one time he was of no use to you, but now he is useful[b] both to you and to me.” (And, yes, I think Paul loved the word-play—“Onesimus” meant “useful.”)

Paul was breaking down barriers. Jesus broke down barriers, too. And, much more so than Paul. How marvelous that Jesus just plain disregarded societal structures and barriers, and welcomed everyone. We see Paul striving to do the same thing. His statement in Galatians 3 (as well as a similar one in Colossians 3) shows us that he is striving toward welcoming all, no matter what.

Dear God, thank You for Your extravagant welcome, breaking down all barriers.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 29.

Encourage the Heart—in Word and Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 7, 2015

encourage each other water

Encourage the Heart—in Word and Prayer

Who doesn’t get discouraged from time to time? And sometimes, more discouraged than others. I very much needed today’s New Testament psalm on Encouragement from the book Praying the New Testament as Psalms.

I suspect this is why God chose some to be positive, encouraging bright spots in God’s congregations. Yes, God has given me insight and some facility with words. I often try my best to put down words that are true, honest, loving, and—of course—encouraging.

I was particularly touched by this verse from the psalm on Encouragement: “Much joy and encouragement stem from love,/setting at rest the hearts of God’s holy people.” [1] Wow. A great deal to unpack from just these two verses.

This book’s authors (Fr. Desmond O’Donnell and Sr. Maureen Mohen) went to the little book of Philemon for this verse. I had almost forgotten about Philemon—such a little letter, tucked away after 1 and 2 Thessalonians. A letter of admonishment and concern as well as love and encouragement, written by the Apostle Paul to his friend and co-worker Philemon.

Ain’t it the truth? (In most cases, that is.) Joy and encouragement do flow out of love, and are the natural next step. And, don’t joy and encouragement calm people down? Yes, these feelings can get people excited, too, but the excitement is more happy-excited, rather than upset or even riled.

When I think of the term “setting hearts at rest,” serenity comes to mind. And that can only be a good thing. Thanks for such wonderful thoughts and images, God!


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Praying the New Testament as Psalms, Desmond O’Donnell, OMI, and Maureen Mohen, RSM, (United States of America: ACTA Publications, 2002.), 64.