Summary: Part of a series called Route 66, a a survey of the Bible.
Philemon: An Appeal to Forgive
by, Tony Thomas
Sr. Minister, Woodland Heights Christian Church, Crawfordsville, IN
No. 57 in a series called, Route 66, a Road Trip Through the Bible
Several TV mini-series were popular during the 80s. For example, some of my favorites were The Blue and the Grey (1982), The Winds of War (1983) ... Anne of Green Gables and The Civil War (1990).
But the No. 1 series of all-time was Roots, based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel. It received 37 Emmy Award nominations (won 9), and it also won a Golden Globe and Peabody award. The series revolved around Kunta Kinte, played by Levar Burton and John Amos.
That story opened in 1750. Kunta Kinte grew up in Gambia, West Africa, and he was trained to become a Mandinka Warrior. But, he was captured by black collaborators, sold to a slave trader, chained in the hold of a slave ship and transported to Colonial America.
A plantation owner named John Reynolds purchased Kunta Kinte and changed his name to Toby. But Kunta Kinte dreamed of going home, so he ran away. When he was captured he was whipped, and when he healed up he ran away again. Eventually some bounty hunters caught him, tied him to a tree and severed one of his feet in half!
To give you some idea of how popular that series was, it aired for eight consecutive nights on ABC, it was watched by 140 million Americans (that represents nearly 80% of the total viewership), and more than half of all Americans!
Kunta Kinte passed on his dream of freedom to his daughter Kizzy and his grandson Chicken George. Six
generations later, when Alex Haley discovered his legacy, he wrote a book that inspired an entire generation! African American’s from one coast to the other began naming their children after the characters on Roots, names like Kunta, Kinte, Bell, Kizzy, George, Fiddler and Fanta.
We’re in a series called Route 66 and today we’re covering the shortest New Testament book (25 verses). It’s from Paul to Philemon, a first century slave owner. And Paul encourages Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus.
I want to break these 25 verses down into four parts: the background, the historical setting, the book and the application. If you’re a child or if you dread the routine of your factory job, you might feel like a slave. But all of us have been offended and we need to forgive.
No one is born with that ability. It is a learned behavior that requires your deliberate choice. I hope you will pray and listen carefully to what God teaches. As the Psalmist writes, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O lord my strength/Redeemer” (Psalms 19:14).
I. The Background
About 5-6 years before he was executed, Paul wrote a brief letter to a friend who lived in Colossae. His name was, “Philemon, a dear and fellow worker” (Philemon 1). His wife was Apphia and his son was Archippus. And, the church met in his home.
The other person who made up the household of Philemon was Onesimus, a slave. Onesimus means, “profitable, or helpful.”