About eleven years ago, I walked in to my 8 a.m. Greek class during my one and only year in seminary. The professor was a Ph. D. student from Cameroon with a very thick accent. He introduced himself this way: “My name is Philemon Yong.” Say his name real fast a time or two and you will realize why we all, including the professor, had a good laugh to start off our class.
I lead off with that because we were studying Philemon in Sunday School recently. What I saw were two things that truly stood out to me. One I had seen before, but hadn’t thought of in a long time. The other is relatively new.
Both came near the end of the epistle and had absolutely nothing to do with the lesson.
The first is contained in one word. Mark. Paul just kind of slides it in there very nonchalantly. Mark. He includes him in a list of other guys that he describes as fellow workers. This might not sound terribly important if we didn’t know what happened a few years before.
Mark had gone on a trip with Paul and Barnabas, but ended up abandoning them. As Paul and Barnabas began making plans for another trip, Barnabas wanted to take Mark along again. Paul said no. They disagreed so much that they ended their partnership. They went their separate ways.
Yet, here is Mark with Paul years later. What happened? I don’t know all of the details, but one word had to have happened.
Somewhere along the way, Paul and Mark reconciled. We don’t know if Paul and Barnabas did, but I hope so. We do know that Mark became one of Paul’s fellow workers. In the end, what the Gospel is about was lived out in Paul’s and Mark’s life. They reconciled their differences. Forgiveness happened. Work ensued.
The other thing I noticed was the list in general. Epaphras. Mark. Aristarchus. Demas. Luke. These guys were part of what these days we call a tribe. They joined together with Paul. He invested in them. He poured himself into them. He nurtured them in the faith.
This is just a small list of people who were part of Paul’s tribe. Read his letters and you will find others. What we see is that Paul, the super apostle, was not in it by himself. He wasn’t off flying solo. He had a team. He had a group. He had helpers. Another way to put it is like this.
No matter what we are involved in, we can’t do it all by ourselves. We have to have help. That’s why it’s important to be connected to the Body of Christ. We each have our role and purpose. Without the others, we can’t function.
Are these all of the lessons that we can learn from Paul or his letter to Philemon? Hardly. But reconciliation and community will go a long way.
Reconciliation and Community. Two great lessons we learn from Paul.
Do you need to reconcile with anyone in the Body of Christ? Do you have a community of fellow believers to help you with your relationship with the Lord?
It’s Twitterific Thursday. I write 140 words, more or less, about a subject. Today it’s a few more. And it’s the last one before Christmas. This one was inspired by my wonderful wife, Jan.
Balthazar. Melchior. Caspar.
Who? Isn’t one of those guys a friendly ghost?
These are the names of the three wise men that show when barn Jesus was born. These are the three guys that we sing about in We Three Kings.
You can read about it right there in the Bible. Right?
They’re in every nativity, live or otherwise, that we see.
There’s just one problem.
Despite what I saw at The Living Christmas Tree this past weekend (put on by a church, no less) none of this is in the Bible.
They show up after the family moves to a house.
We don’t know if there are three of them. There are three gifts.
Their names aren’t in the Bible.
A lot of what we know about the original Christmas story is just plain fiction.
Read the accounts in Matthew and Luke. Then report back.
What do you know about the Christmas story that really just isn’t in there?