Why Do You Run?
Jude 11; Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, having run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
My fear is, we often do not know how good we have it. Oh, I know there are some very desperate people living very desperate lives. So often, we feel that if, if I could just run away and start over, things would be so much different than they are today. I’m sure this was the thinking of Onesimus. The type of master that Philemon was is unknown, but since he is a Christian and Paul seemed to hold him in high regard, I would like to believe Philemon was a just and upright man, dealing fairly and faithfully with all matters of business which would include the care of those in service to him.
Realizing this is a bit of a stretch, but if all stories of the Bible are given for us to catch a glimpse, or another piece of the puzzle, helping the plan of salvation, then this letter to Philemon should be of the same character. Then if this story or rather letter to Philemon is illustrative of this fact that all stories of the Bible give us a glimpse of the plan of salvation, then Onesimus is symbolic of you and I, who being created in the likeness of triune Godhead, then were placed on this earth for the sole purpose for care of the earth and for our heavenly Father to spend time with us. To be honest, care of the earth was secondary to the fact that God loved us so much that he created the earth for our happiness and the garden of Eden was the first earthly Sanctuary where God dwelt with his earth children.
But, Adam and Eve became dissatisfied with the conditions they were living under thinking they could improve their condition by listening to and acting on behalf of another.
With the sin of Adam and Eve they stole the earth away from God and gave it to Satan. It was only at the cross that Christ once again, won back the rulership of this earth. With Christ’s death upon the cross, Christ paid the price for our rebellion, he redeemed us back to himself.
Onesimus looked at the condition in which he lived and determined, I can do better on my own. I can run to Rome. Rome where the opportunity to live under the patronage system will give me benefits, that I cannot achieve under the bondage of Philemon.
Time does not permit us to completely explore the system of Patronage that existed in ancient Rome. The short version is that that the common man, or the runaway slave would align themselves to a wealthy person, promoting them among others and in turn the wealthy person would supply then with food, clothing and in some cases shelter.
I realize that explanation does not do the concept justice, but in the time frame we have it will have to be suffice.
Onesimus stole money, perhaps clothing or other goods from Philemon. Then, making his way to Rome, he thought life would be better. But the problem is, life away from the conditions we are presently in is seldom better. Rarely does running away fix the problem. It certainly did not help Adam and Eve when they ran away from God. Look at all the problems this has created. But thankfully for Onesimus, he met Paul and Paul shared the gospel message. Onesimus accepted the truth of a crucified and risen Saviour and truly within his heart repented and wanted to make right what he had done.