Wednesday, 2 September 2020 Philemon 1:1- 21
“…..that your deed might not be by compulsion, as it were but voluntary.” -Philemon 1:14
Does Christian brotherly love really work even in situation of extraordinary tension and difficulty? In today’s reading, Paul in his personal letter to Philemon, is asking him to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus who has now become his brother in Christ. ‘Onesimus’ means useful, a name he could not live up to, until he met Christ. But now a new believer in Christ and a dear son of Paul, Philemon is asked to give him a fresh lease in life.
Here Paul calls two believers to live by God’s ways rather than follow what most people would do. And how does he expect Philemon to act in this manner? Verse 5 says, through the love that Philemon has for the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints of which Onesimus is one.
Through this reading we can learn powerful lessons on love that will enable us to mirror it at home, church and in the community.
Love always pleads (Philem. 1:9) – “yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you, for my son Onesimus” Paul, here is pleading on behalf of his spiritual son, asking Philemon to forgive this runaway slave and accept him as a brother in Christ. This love never gives up. It perseveres to see that the other is not rejected because of his past sins rather accepted because of his saved state. 1Peter 4:8 says “…love will cover a multitude of sins.” This was the prayer Jesus had for all of us before he left the earth. He pleaded with the Father because of His great love for us. In John 17: 20-26 [paraphrased] we read Jesus’ prayer for all who are yet to hear the good news. That those who hear would be one just as He and the Father were. Christ unites us all by His blood. We are all sinners saved by grace. What stops us from giving this love that we have received so freely to others who equally deserve it?
Love always promotes (Philem. 1:15-16) “that you might receive him forever no longer as a slave but more than a slave – a beloved brother.” Here Paul is reiterating the truth that he wrote in Galatians 4:5-7 [paraphrased] Now as you are redeemed by the Son, you are no longer slaves but sons and an heir to God through Christ. Once we are in Christ Jesus, no matter how different our backgrounds, culture, jobs etc are, we are all raised to that same level where we are called ‘sons of the Living God.’ We see this promotion in the story of the prodigal son. We see him return home repentant, broken and hopeless just wanting to be taken in as a slave. But to his surprise he is reinstated as an heir to the house. This is what Jesus does for every repentant child who returns to Him. Have you received this privilege? If not repent and return!
Love always puts into action (Philem. 1:21) - ‘you will do even more than I say.’ Paul was confident of Philemon’s obedience because of the love relationship they shared. He knew that he would demonstrate that love for Paul by accepting Onesimus back. The greatest example of this love is our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:8). Love is not just sweet words that are spoken, rather it needs to be seen in our deeds first in our homes then the church and then in the community. This kind of love always encourages, empathizes and endures.
When was the last time someone saw this kind of love in your life?
Quote for the day: Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:8)
Listen: ‘Your love never fails’