16bHe is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.
The book of Philemon, in many respects, is one that contravenes cultural convention. Onesimus, a slave belonging to Philemon, has run away, converted to Christianity and sought refuge with the apostle Paul. Paul writes on behalf of his ward to Philemon (a Christian himself) asking that the latter receives the returning Onesimus with grace and compassion. This is particularly important as slavery was an accepted norm during this period and the applicable Roman law included a penalty of death for runaway slaves. By making this request, Paul risked significant backlash (within and without the Church).
Prejudice and bias underlie any system that enslaves and oppresses human beings on the basis of perceived inferiorities. As much as I detest the reality of historical preferences that resulted in the enslavement of countless multitudes over the centuries and the perpetuation of created associated stereotypes, my personal journey has required an investigation of my own prejudices or unconscious bias. The result was an acknowledgment that as a person of color, I had my own pre-conceived biases for and against those who were racially dissimilar to me. I had to expose my own automatic tendencies to “judge a book by its cover”, particularly within the precincts of the Church. This continues to be a journey that is more challenged when societal events point to the continuation of social justice deficits and the seeming apathy from Christian leaders and congregations.
When you view people who are culturally different to you (race, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc.), do you have automatic messages you tell yourself about them? What are they? God desires to bless you with the freedom to be your authentic self while extending compassion and grace to those who are dissimilar.
If you are interested in finding out more about what your preconceived ideas are and how they impact the way you relate with others, here is a free assessment that can help.
As always, we are here to offer a judgment free zone, should you desire to work more on what you discover about yourself.