Paul spent much of his ministry in the Roman province of Asia–-now known as Turkey. He made a number of converts in Colossae, a city about 80 miles east of Ephesus. Among these was the family of Philemon, a wealthy slave owner. One of the slaves, Onesimus, whose name means "useful", followed Paul after the apostle left. Runaway slaves could be killed with impunity. Paul wrote a short note to Philemon to plead on behalf of Onesimus. Apparently he was successful, because in the 20th century a plaque was found near Colossae. It was a tribute to someone named "Philemon from his beloved Onesimus". A coincidence?
HATING ONE'S FAMILY
In today's Gospel, Jesus says something shocking, "Anyone who comes to me without hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, cannot be my disciple." We should realize that it was intended to provoke a response. If we took his words literally, it would be the exact opposite of all that he preached. But are the words meant in the literal sense?
Jesus used what we might call "reverse psychology" to elicit a commitment from his disciples. Many came to him because he was a free physician. They had only a passing or no interest in his teachings. His words might be interpreted to say, "Anyone who wants to be my follower must love me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters--yes, more than his own life--otherwise he cannot be my disciple." (Today's English version of the Bible)
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