“Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good – no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” Philemon 15-16
In this verse Paul is referring to Onesimus who had been Philemon’s slave. (He had run away to Rome, met Paul and subsequently become a Christian.)
One of the age-old theological questions is, why did God allow sin to enter his perfect world? In allowing sin to enter the world it separated people from God. Yet in God’s economy of time, only “for a little while,” because God had a plan to restore the relationship. Not only to restore it but to make it better. No longer slaves but brothers. “I no longer call you slaves, for a master doesn’t confide in his slaves; now you are My friends, proved by the fact that I have told you everything the Father told me” (John 15:15 LB).
In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve knew God’s holiness and justice. But ‘perfect’ justice meant that Adam and Eve lived under a death threat. One bad choice, with no second chances, meant instant spiritual death and eventually physical death. Perhaps there was also something slave-like about Adam and Eve’s relationship with God. God couldn’t confide in Adam and Eve the way he wanted because Adam and Eve couldn’t have known the depths of God’s compassion, mercy and grace while they lived in this state of perfection.
God wants relationships with his people like that of dear brothers and not like that of slaves and he will go to extraordinary lengths to achieve it. Even allowing sin and suffering to disappoint our expectations of him.
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