This past Sunday in church I sat behind Rachel, a toddler friend. She was sitting next to Laura, a teenager. Rachel had some small pieces of paper on which she was drawing. Laura took one and wrote “I love you,” and gave it to Rachel with a big smile. The service continued. At the end of the service we all stood to sing. I was touched to see that, in her little hand, Rachel still clutched the slip of paper with the message written on it. I could read, “I love you,” in between her little fingers as she clutched the paper like we would clutch an admission ticket.
When I read the short (one chapter long) book of Philemon, at first it was difficult, as it’s written about a slave, and no one wants to think about slavery. But God’s love is our ticket, and His love in the form of Jesus’ death will be the ticket for all of us, no matter what situation in our life we face that we cannot change.
By way of background, Onesimus was a slave who had stolen from his master Philemon and run away, and then met Paul and become a Christian. In this letter Paul asks Philemon to take Onesimus back and treat him fairly rather than punish him (the punishment could have been death). This shows that little by little, God’s love can change situations. First, Philemon was called to show love and mercy to a slave instead of treating that person with disregard or worse. God’s love can open our minds and hearts to show love to persons or in situations where we hadn’t even considered reaching out before. Like little Rachel clutched her “ticket” which she couldn’t yet read, may we pray to be open to God’s love and to showing it to others in new ways.