On the immigration issue, there is a bit a stalemate on this blog, though there has been good discussion, and I thank each of you for your comments. But, I’d like us to consider it all from a different direction: What about Paul and Onesimus?
In Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon, Paul informs us of a certain slave named Onesimus. The standard view is that Onesimus is a runaway, and Roman law justifies the death penalty for a runaway slave. We have here then something that is not all that different from illegal immigrants in the USA. Not the same, to be sure, but close enough for us to do some “biblical spadework.” How did Paul respond? What did Onesimus do?
Here’s what I see:
1. In v. 8-9 Paul chooses to base his moral logic on love rather than authority — both his and that of Roman law.
2. Paul steps in as the advocate of Onesimus: he’s become a Christian brother now and Paul is on his side.
3. Paul sends him back to Onesimus, because Paul wants to do what is right by Philemon (v. 14).
4. Paul gives a hesitant explanation of why he may have ended up with the slave of Philemon: so that Onesimus could be returned as a brother (v. 15-16).
5. Paul requests that Philemon receive him as a brother, and even more as if he were Paul himself (v. 17). Hospitality is no small issue for the Roman world.
6. Paul accepts any debt, moral or economic, and asks Philemon to charge it to Paul’s account (v. 18).
7. And Paul expects Philemon to do even more than Paul has asked.
Now what does this say about how Christians dealt with the State? How they treated one another? How they transcended law of the land to do what was right before God? Was Paul risking himself in doing this?