Chapter 1

God’s preferred method is love.

In one of His clearest (and most often ignored) statements, Jesus told His disciples that He preferred to call them friends instead of servants (Jn 15:15). This indicates that God’s preferred method of dealing with His creation is through personal relationship, even if we would all agree that we, by default, are in a subordinate position.

Paul echoes this sentiment in his letter to Philemon: “Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.” (vs 8-9)

Because of this, Paul continues by saying that he is sending Onesimus (apparently Philemon’s slave) back home in the hopes that their relationship might now be something different than it was in the past: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.” (vs 15-16)

There is no evidence that Philemon had lost his “claim” to Onesimus (especially since Paul was sending him back), just as God has never lost His “claim” to us. But God’s preferred method of relating to us is love, not ownership.

What does this mean? That we won’t live for eternity with someone who will treat us like slaves. We won’t live for eternity with someone who will order us around and micromanage our every move. Instead, we will live for eternity with someone who cares about who we are, what we do, and where we go simply because He is interested in us.

We will live for eternity with someone who really, truly loves us.