I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. – Philemon 1.10-16
I like a lot of things about being a Christian. I have never looked back to the 14th of February 1974 and regretted my decision to accept Christ as my Saviour. One of the things I really like is the familiship of the body of Christ. We have been back in Alabama for a few days on a short trip to visit family and visit churches. Here in the south there is a long tradition of calling each other 'brother' and 'sister.' I have heard it a lot in the couple of churches we have been in so far. I like it - it like using brother and sister because that is what we are.
When Paul wrote to Philemon he appealed to Philemon to do something very difficult.
Onesimus was Philemon's slave. He had run away and escaped to Rome. There he came under the influence of Paul's gospel message nad had been saved. After he was saved he stayed and ministered to Paul in his imprisonment. He had been profitable to Paul and Paul knew Onesimus would be a blessing to Philemon.
So he asked Philemon to receive Onesimus, not as a slave - but now as a beloved brother. What a challenge that must have been - but that is what Paul asked.
I wonder if Paul thought back to the day when Ananias had come to the place where he was staying. Ananias was frightened because he knew Paul as an enemy of the church. Do you remember what Ananias said when he met Saul? He said 'Brother Saul.'
Think of that - an enemy became a brother.
Think of this situation - a former slave became a brother.
Through Christ those of every nation and background and race and colour and ethnicity and culture and economic status become brother and sister.
'As a brother' - what a wonderful thing to be.