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“No longer as a slave”

March 15, 2024

Daily Scripture

Philemon 1:15-16, Galatians 3:26-28, Ephesians 6:9

Philemon 1
15 Maybe this is the reason that Onesimus was separated from you for a while so that you might have him back forever—16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—that is, as a dearly loved brother. He is especially a dearly loved brother to me. How much more can he become a brother to you, personally and spiritually in the Lord!

Galatians 3
26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 6
9 As for masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Stop threatening them, because you know that both you and your slaves have a master in heaven. He doesn’t distinguish between people on the basis of status.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

At various places in Paul’s letters, he realistically told slaves to do their best to cooperate with their masters (e.g., 1 Timothy 6:1, Titus 2:9), verses misused through the centuries to endorse slavery. But those verses did not mean that Paul saw slavery itself as good or wise. “Whatever Paul’s views about the institution of slavery (see note on Ephesians 6:9), it would be quite unexpected for them to come up directly in his brief instructions to slaves or slaveholders…. Changing the predominantly anti-Christian society, however, could not occur as quickly.” *

  • The letter to Philemon had only 335 Greek words. (If you have time, read the full letter.) Paul sent it with Onesimus, one of Philemon’s slaves who, against Roman law, had run away. Paul had won both men to faith in Jesus. He returned Onesimus to his owner (who by law could punish him any way he wished), asking Philemon to receive him “no longer as a slave,” but as “a dearly loved brother.” How did Paul’s example show Christians that slavery could not be God’s ideal?
  • In Galatians 3:28, Paul said Christ overcomes “all ethnic barriers” (neither Jew nor Greek), “all social barriers” (neither slave nor free) and “all sexual barriers” (neither male nor female). ** “When we say Christ has abolished these distinctions, we do not mean that they do not exist, but that they do not matter.” *** We’re all sinners at the foot of the cross. We’re all saved by the grace of the one God. How can you let the gospel erase all those barriers in your own mind and actions?

Lord Jesus, keep transforming me in Christ. Help me pursue unity in Christ and justice through Christ for people who are like me and people who are very different from me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection. He and his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 and were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew and Jacob.

With our focus on Paul during Lent, I have become sidetracked by the influence of the Roman Road system on Paul’s mission trips & their impact on the spread of Christianity in general. So, today’s Insight will take a slight detour. Let’s take a look: 

As the Roman Empire expanded, the Romans wanted to keep its provinces, territories, & client states interconnected. Around 300 B.C., they started to develop a network of roads that would eventually cover 250,000 miles. (For comparison, the U.S. Interstate Highway System is 47,000+ miles long.) The most famous road, the Appian Way, was 350-miles long & 15-feet wide, connecting Rome to Southern Italy.

Aside: While there’s been no archaeological evidence of billboards being used during ancient Roman times, I wonder if they might have had some:
The Original Un-Cola

This sophisticated road system allowed Romans to cut the travel time of troops by nearly half. Having the flexibility to quickly maneuver reinforcements to areas of need meant that the Romans could avoid needing large, expensive garrisons of troops in remote outposts across their empire.

Athens: Home of the Lightning
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Go Greece Lightning!

The Romans wanted to maximize speed on the roadways, so they had 2 rules: 

  1. Roads must be straight
  2. A maximum incline of 8% slope. 

Tunnels & Bridges were frequently utilized to keep the distance traveled as short as possible. Roman roads were painstakingly constructed with native materials, multiple layers, & the top was crowned for efficient drainage. Local authorities were responsible for all road maintenance. (Many of Italy’s modern highways traverse the same routes as the original roadways & segments of the original paved roads can still be seen today.)

Coming Soon to your Favorite Salon: Sinai Sandals
Walk Like an Egyptian!

Roman roads were diligently mapped & documented. Stone obelisks, milestones, were placed every Roman mile (1.5 km) along the road to give the traveler the distance to the next outpost or city. (The “Golden Milestone” was considered the starting point of all roads & listed distances from the Roman Forum to significant cities within the empire, ala the old signpost in the M*A*S*H television show.) 

Roman roads were relatively secure, with small military outposts & post offices roughly every 10 miles. Criminals steered clear of Roman roads, since they were heavily patrolled & monitored by watchtowers. Thus, travelers didn’t have to wait to travel with a caravan out of fear for one’s safety; you could travel by yourself with some confidence. (These roadways would be much safer, for example, than the Road to Jericho that our friend, The Good Samaritan, traveled.)

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Roman roads also had many other benefits like roadside inns (Tabernae) that provided lodging, food, blacksmiths, & medical assistance. The inns were well marked with lit lanterns by the front door & even a bar outside the establishment for drive-thru options. 

It is believed that Roman citizens, like Paul, had extra privileges like cheaper fees to travel on bridges or through tunnels, a HOV-esque lane during times of heavy traffic, & immediate legal attention in case of any mishaps or issues. 

So, what might this infrastructural history mean for us today?

  1. Christianity was able to spread much faster than expected thanks to the advent of safe, efficient travel, not just for Paul & his colleagues, but other evangelists as well. (For more modern examples, John Wesley traveled 250,000+ miles during his preaching career & at one point 38% of Methodist preachers served multiple congregations each Sunday.)
  2. Jesus, himself, benefited from the Roman Interstate system. Israel had 2 main Roman highways: Via Maris, which ran along the coastline & the King’s Highway (North/South highway located on the eastern side of Israel) that had a branch that encircled the Sea of Galilee. This meant Jesus’ audience would have included local Jews, as well as Gentile travelers, foreign traders, & even Roman soldiers.
  3. I would submit that a key lesson to be learned from the Roman road system is that Christians should always take advantage of every technological advancement to help spread the word of Christ; thus, today’s online communities are just following in the well-trod history of the Roman roads utilized by Paul 2,000 years ago.

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© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (p. 10348). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** Frank J. Matera, Galatians, in the CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 359 NT.
*** Stott, J. R. W. The message of Galatians: Only one way. Leicester, England, Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1986, p. 100.