“He [Onesimus) is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.” (Philemon 1:16, NLT)
Today, we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, and the freedom from racism and prejudice of any type that the movement and the American ideal represents. What does it mean to be Free at Last?
Onesimus was a runaway slave who met Paul. Paul told Onesimus the Good News that Jesus loved him, even though he was a slave to sin. Paul told him that Jesus took his sins upon Himself on the cross. Jesus paid the price of Onesimus’ sins by dying on that cross, being buried in a borrowed tomb, and rising from the dead on the third day.
Onesimus accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He was now a fellow believer, a brother in Christ. Paul knew Onesimus’ owner, Philemon, and wrote this letter to him. Onesimus carried the letter to Philemon as more than a slave, for he was now a brother in Christ. He was freed from his bondage to sin, and now Paul appealed to Philemon to think of him as a brother in Christ rather than a slave.
America was founded upon the principle of freedom.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence)
Freedom. Equality. Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness.
“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28, NLT)
One in Christ Jesus. Unity. Isn’t that what we all want? No longer above or under someone else.
Freedom to love. Freedom to serve. Freedom from bondage of any kind. True freedom is extreme. True freedom comes through Jesus.
“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.’” (John 8:34-36, NLT)
The slave, Onesimus, became a brother, a member of the family of God, free to live as a fellow heir to the kingdom of God because Jesus set him free.
Extreme love. Extreme freedom.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from the Birmingham Jail.
“Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? — “Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist? — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?” (Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”)
May we shower our brothers and sisters with extreme love and embrace freedom with open arms.
Our Father in heaven, thank You for bringing true freedom to Your people. Cause justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Renew our hearts, so that we love all people as You love them. Bring unity in America and true freedom in You. In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.
“Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.” (“I Have A Dream“)
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