Philemon was a Christian and a slave-owner. This is a contradiction, but we often see similar contradictions. For example, many people professed to be both Christians and Nazis. Also, some Christians are supporters of child-killing through abortion. Obviously, when people become Christians, their eyes are not completely open. They still may have major blind spots.
Paul tried to open Philemon's eyes by directly appealing that Philemon free his slave, Onesimus. We don't know if Philemon responded to Paul's request. However, we do know that throughout history many Christians have refused to respond to requests that they change their lives in areas contrary to Christianity. In the USA, we eventually had the Civil War to force slave owners to free their slaves. Paul advocated a different approach. He said: "Although I feel that I have every right to command you to do what ought to be done, I prefer to appeal in the name of love" (Phlm 8-9). Paul also said: "I did not want to do anything without your consent, that kindness might not be forced on you but might be freely bestowed" (Phlm 14). Paul believed that spiritual blindness cannot be changed by force, but only by grace. Therefore, let's stop abortion, racism, pornography, drug addiction, etc. by converting abortionists, racists, porn peddlers, pushers, junkies, Christians, and ourselves. When we believe that the Lord can convert anybody at any time, we will begin to see sin, spiritual blindness, and evil removed from our society.
|Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Nihil Obstat ("Permission to Publish") for One Bread, One Body covering the period from October 1, 2010 through November 30, 2010.
†Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 6, 2010.