Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: BRAND (01/12/17)
By Elaine Hemingway
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The older man was bald, and seemed of a portly frame, though shrunken with muscles that must once have been firm but were now slack from dis-use. His eyes, deep-set and penetrating looked at him with compassion and sympathy. His voice, when he spoke, was deep and held the timbre of learning and good education. “Welcome, my young friend. I wonder what has brought you here.”
“My own foolishness for which I am now paying.”
Again the older man looked across the stone slabs of the cell with a nod of consideration.“I see you bear the mark of a slave. May I hazard a guess that you are in flight from an intolerable situation?”
The young man’s gaunt features showed a distress that filled the cavernous room.“I am a slave, sir, my ears pierced by a Roman sword when I was captured. I was bought by a man from Colosse, who was kind to me.” He shuffled in discomfort that was palpable as he looked into his fellow prisoner’s eyes. “And I repaid his kindness by stealing from him to find my family.”
“And now, you are regretting your action?”
“Indeed, sir, for now I am under sentence of death. Rome has no sympathy for run-aways.”
“True, but repentance is a good sign. Perhaps I can tell you my story. I was a slave too, but I was saved from an eternal punishment. I was blind.in both mind, and for a short time, in body, but now I see. Perhaps I can help you to find the Truth that will free you from the slavery of sin, and help you in your life’s journey.”
And so began the story of Paul, the apostle, and his adoption of Onesimus, slave of Philemon, who was a friend of Paul, and a follower of the Way.
Slavery was common in Biblical times, some even voluntarily offering themselves to a master in lieu of a debt they could not pay. And all would bear the identification of ownership. Some had a brand on their forehead, others a tattoo on the wrist, and certainly by the Romans, a hole in the ear.
There has been a surge of identity “badges” in recent years, such as bumper stickers, buttons proclaiming “I am a Christian,” crosses hung on necklaces, even in my case, a small anchor. Do we really need to label ourselves thus?
In Galatians 6:17 Paul tells his readers, “…Let no-one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Does he mean the evidence of beatings, shipwreck and persecution as a teacher and follower of Christ? I think that when Paul speaks of bearing on his body, he is referring to his whole, restored self, body, mind and spirit, submitted completely to Christ which no-one could doubt upon meeting him.
Do we bear the marks of submission? “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness,” says Paul in Romans 6:20-22. “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
Holiness, meaning set apart, may not show as a physical brand of ownership, but should shine like a beacon in our lives.
As Paul continued to teach Onesimus he must have also taught the power of prayer for we read that Onesimus was not condemned to death but instead became a valued and useful worker.
God is in the business of restoring lives, and historically there is evidence of the ministry of Onesimus of Byzantium who was canonised in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
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