Have you ever played hide-and-go-seek in the dark? Last weekend I was with a group of young adults from my church at a secluded place for a weekend of fun and Bible study. We had a bunch of board games, a few movies, and even did some sledding in a very beautiful setting.
At just before midnight on Saturday, we turned out the lights and closed the shades. One person gave the rest of us 5 minutes to hide. I’m older (and wider) than everyone else, so finding a spot was harder for me.
I’ve heard that it’s sometimes hardest to notice people who are in the most obvious places. So, I took the lamp shade off of a lamp, put it on my head and stood next to the lamp. The seeker was given 20 minutes to find everyone, and he didn’t find me until minute 19. Several times he walked only a foot from me. I was in the main room where people went after being caught. Nobody else in the room knew I was there either.
The Bible study I had prepared was on the tiny book of Philemon. The Apostle Paul wrote it to a guy named Philemon who was a slave owner. His slave, Onesimus, had run away and had come into contact with Paul who led him to faith in Jesus. The purpose of the letter is to convince Philemon to accept Onesimus’ return to his place of slavery without punishment. As expected, this concept was tough for some to grasp. How can we listen to a man who is obviously okay with such an awful practice?
However, slavery was very, very different from what we’ve learned about American history. It was common for slaves to be emancipated by their owners. The average length of slavery was about seven years. Slaves were often taught a skill, and it wasn’t uncommon for slave owners to provide funds as business partners for their former slaves. Slaves had rights and could even own property!
Our immediate reaction was improper because we were relying on our understanding of the situation. Because we’d rather have had Paul ask for Onesimus’ freedom (based on our understanding of slavery), we could have missed out on an awesome message and the rather fun tone of the work.
In the darkness of our retreat room, people could barely see the lampshade on my head and unwittingly assumed there was a lamp under it. Don’t let your assumptions about the Bible keep you from finding what it is the Holy Spirit has for you to uncover.
Fittingly, the three major players in the letter had come to Jesus from very different backgrounds: a zealous Jew, a wealthy Asian man, and a slave. Three very different perspectives trying to know God more – to work out their common journey together. I’ll be using the next three blogs to share some of the thoughts we had.
Also, I’ll be switching from Tuesday/Thursday to Monday/Wednesday/Friday postings.