There are times when our Bible book names short change the details of the contents. Some personalities, some cultures, some processes abbreviate incessantly, perhaps too much and leave us with sparse details.
PHILEMON as we know this letter in our New Testament is actually addressed
“To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker,
to Apphia our sister,
to Archippus our fellow soldier and
to the church that meets in your home:”
So 3 individuals and a group constitute the recipients of the God-breathed letter. In order – a) Philemon; b) Apphia – his wife; c) Archippus – a key leader; and d) to the house church that met in Philemon’s home. This group of residents of Colosse are serving Christ together.
Briefly in this post I want to consider the depth of relationships built between believers in the 1st century and prompt some reflection on the distance which some professed Christ-followers maintain today.
Philemon is no stranger to Paul. Friendship is not optional and by God’s grace we may have friends wherever God’s providence has taken us. My good friend, Michael Haykin has written and spoken on friendship and knows well through church history, the deep value of committed friendships.
Last week at a lunch table at work, I was reflecting with a co-worker on the difference between being “people-oriented” and “task-oriented.” Some churches seem to predominantly profile one of these orientations. May I suggest “task-oriented” people conduct ministry as if people really aren’t that important. Let’s get this service done, the building cleaned up so we can get home to other tasks. “People-oriented” ministries take time, plenty of time with others, listening, interacting and demonstrating that the tasks that await are subservient to the people. I urge you to ponder your own predisposition and learn from others. It is not a question of right and wrong. We need each other. Tasks need to be completed but I would suggest that the Scriptures repeatedly urge a not-forgetting of the people in the process. Paul himself had objectives, goals, and lots of plans, which he trusted by God’s grace to accomplish. But these could only be done with others who were serving Christ together with them. Our well-meaning map designers in the backs of our Bibles misname some pages as “Paul’s missionary journeys” which wrongfully communicate that Paul was a “solo” missionary, whereas the “team” which he led was quite large at times.
Philemon is working in Colosse, as is Apphia who with her husband appear to be “given to ministry.” The leader (perhaps ‘elder’) with whom they serve is Archippus engaged in kingdom ‘warfare’ along with Paul. God had blessed the efforts of gospel outreach and now an assembly of believers met with them in this first century house church.
As you head off to worship with others today, please engage with them. We gather for ‘corporate’ worship for ‘corporate’ fellowship and to simply ‘attend’ while ignoring others demonstrates a misunderstanding of what God has called us to by His grace. I am blessed today to be gathering with a familiar group of Christ-followers (and some who as yet are not God’s children) in a community which for many years I called home! Greetings to my dear friends and fellow workers with whom God has permitted precious interaction around the world.