I enjoy a good demolition project, tearing down walls, smashing things with a sledge hammer, prying, pulling and incinerating the consequent debris. Sometimes I like to dream big, on a much larger demolition scale I was thinking about a wrecking ball. I would love to sit in the operator’s seat of one of these wrecking machines, my hands controlling the swinging action of the massive ball of forged steel as it smashes through concrete, steel, and any other obstacles in its path. A ten-thousand-pound ball of steel has the potential to bring even the strongest barrier to the ground.
Paul’s letter to Philemon describes a different process of breaking down barriers, barriers that rise up in our personal relationships. Much like in Paul’s time, these barriers might include social or economic status, heritage, or even geographic location. Paul writes a very personal letter to Philemon in respect to a mutual acquaintance, a man named Onesimus who was a run-away slave from the house of Philemon. The barriers I am talking about in relationships are broken down by love, a love that is found through the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our relationship with Christ. There is a “bond among brothers” in this letter. Paul calls for the barriers of social status (Philemon as master and Onesimus as slave) to be disbanded, “welcome him as you would welcome me… no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother”, brothers in Christ. If you read through this short letter you will find some great insight into what a God honouring relationship looks like, you will see love, trust, respect, confidence and most importantly, Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ loving one another without judgement and without fear, that is a beautiful picture that I hope to see one day. The foundations of the barriers that get in the way of authentic Christ centred relationships are made up of the things of this world, things that focus on us. Exemplified through the life and death of Jesus Christ, the foundations of all our relationships need to be built with one key ingredient, love. Our first love should be for Christ and in the knowledge of Christ’s love for us, when that shines through so then will our love for others. Lives are transformed by love, we don’t need wrecking balls to remove barriers, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome them.