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This message is the first in a series through the New Testament book of Philemon. The main, overarching thread that will link this series together is the way that Philemon demonstrates how the Gospel should be lived out amidst the messy reality of our lives. Other letters written by Paul make the Gospel (both what it is and what it isn’t) the main object of his teaching. However, this book is different. Paul’s letter to his friend, Philemon, isn’t about the Gospel exactly, but it is more of a practical demonstration of how the Gospel works in shaping how we live in the world and relate to others. Paul communicates to Philemon in a kind of shorthand which assumes a shared and agreed-upon foundation in the truth. Paul does not feel it necessary to argue for the Gospel with his friend, but rather appeals to their shared values and a shared understanding about the place of Jesus in their lives to make his case.

So, each week Philemon will help us see a different aspect of how the Gospel works in real life. We’ll be talking about second chances, forgiveness, and reconciliation. What should Gospel-shaped leadership look like? In light of the Gospel, how do we deal with conflict among God’s people? How does the Gospel help us think about the practice of slavery in Philemon?

However, before we can get to those topics (and more) it seems that there is an even more foundational Gospel-truth in the letter that precedes all those and is, in fact, the soil from which a Gospel-shaped way of living grows. So we’ll begin our conversation about how the Gospel works in real life by talking about love. The whole letter is drenched in love, motivated by love, and it encourages its readers toward love.