You have likely heard the phrase: “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” The cross does an amazing thing. It can save the rich, the poor, the famous, and the outcast. And one of the most incredible things to ponder is the makeup of the church. Within the family of God, there are many languages represented, people groups represented, and social standings represented…yet there is a common theme in every person represented- saving faith in Jesus Christ.
This is illustrated in the short book of Philemon. Philemon is unique in that is was written to an individual rather than a local church or churches. Paul wrote this brief letter to a man by the name of Philemon. Philemon had a slave by the name of Onesimus who had run away from him and ended up in Rome. While in Rome, Onesimus was saved under the ministry of Paul and became a valuable help to Paul in his ministry. However, Paul felt an obligation to reach out to Philemon regarding Onesimus because he was also a Christian. And in this letter, Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus back again, not as a mere servant, but as a brother in Christ. Paul urged him to receive him “not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord”. Paul tells Philemon that his relationship with Onesimus has changed. He went away as a wicked, runaway servant, but he was now returning as a beloved brother in Christ. Therefore, he was urged to receive him. They were now brothers in Christ, unified in the gospel. God is no respecter of persons and this is evident in his bringing together of Philemon and Onesimus.
There is a special bond between those who have been saved by God’s grace regardless of their standing in the eyes of the world. There is a special unity between those who are brothers in Christ that this world knows nothing of. Psalm 133 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Within a church there are many people represented. There are many backgrounds, and preferences, and occupations, and social standings. However, when a church keeps its eyes on Christ and the mission Christ has given us, it becomes pleasant to dwell together while we focus on both propagating the faith and contending for the faith. Spurgeon said, “As to brethren in spirit, they ought to dwell together in church fellowship, and in that fellowship one essential matter is unity. We can dispense with uniformity if we possess unity: oneness of life, truth, and way; oneness in Christ Jesus; oneness of object and spirit –these we must have, or our assemblies will be synagogues of contention rather than churches of Christ.” The more a church is unified in truth and purpose, the more pleasant fellowship there will be!