Choosing Righteous Responsibility
In the United States, many people strive for the “American Dream.” The dream represents how Americans' freedoms and liberties can create opportunities for an individual’s ideas of success. You can climb the social ladder, get rich, be happy, and live out your ideal “dream.” In the book of Philemon, 0nesimus, probably dreamed of what his ideal life would be like. As a bondservant, he had little to no physical liberties or freedoms and decided one day that he would run away to seize them. So after gaining freedom from his master, why would he return?
The simple answer is Christ. Philippians 2:4-8 reads, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Being God, Jesus not only lowered Himself to the stature of men but also as a servant. He healed mankind’s sick, sought the lost, showed love to His enemies, and cleansed the dirtiest parts of His disciple’s bodies. He even willingly died a tortuous death on the cross to pay our debt of sin with God when He had none (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus could have saved His life and would have been justified. Yet, He chose to live and die in the way God asked Him to out of His love for God and us (Matt. 26:39-44, 1 John 4:9-11)
1 Corinthians 7:17-24 reads, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”
Onesimus was biblically encouraged by Paul to return to his former master, Philemon. Yet, the choice was based on his relationship with God and ultimately his to make. I conjecture that he made the hard decision to return because he led a life by Christ’s example. Jesus Christ had no responsibility to wipe our debt away, especially at the cost of His life. Yet, He loved us so much that He died to clear our debt with God. Christ did not run away, He faced everything head-on with a righteous attitude. By running away, Onesimus still had a debt to Philemon and righteously sought to make it right. To him, the eternal freedoms he gained with Christ must have meant more than losing the physical ones he would have lost as a bondservant.
It is easy and tempting to run away from problems and to dream of a life where those ones don’t exist. However, the things we often want aren’t what we truly need, and what we dream of isn’t always what we should be chasing. If we accept our present lives, take responsibility for our mistakes, and do our best for God, then many times we will discover freedoms and beauties beyond our imagination.