Do you remember Paul’s lovely prayer yesterday? Today we get to hear a plea from Paul to Philemon in Philemon 1:8-22.
8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
Paul opens his heart to Philemon, showing him a young man named Onesimus. Paul mentions that he is an old man, a man not only old, but a prisoner. And he COULD order Philemon to comply with his wishes, but rather to use his love as a medium for the request he makes.
Take Onesimus back. Onesimus is like a son to Paul, being a useful fellow. And Paul wants to keep him by his side as he serves him well. BUT he can’t. He needs Philemon’s permission. He doesn’t just want Philemon saying yes because he wants to be rid of a useless one, but he wants Philemon to see Onesimus as he is now.. a truly useful fellow, a fellow that Paul calls family.
So as he sends Onesimus back, it is like Paul’s heart is travelling to Philemon. That is the love the Paul has for this man, this bondservant of Philemon’s.
In his desire to have Onesimus back with him with the good and knowledge consent from Philemon, Paul raises the question, that just perhaps Onesimus needed to be parted from Philemon for a while. Parted in order to no longer be useless but useful. No longer a bondservant but a loved brother in the Lord.
Can you imagine the shock this would be for Philemon? To find out that his bondservant (the useless one) was with Paul and was BEING USEFUL!!!! Not only that, he was considered to be like a son to Paul. Plus this… a believer. This useless Onesimus… a believer and useful and coming back to him, A changed man.
Then Paul caps it off by saying If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
Somehow I don’t think Philemon would charge Paul anything do you? I think once he got past the shock of a changed Onesimus he would have been delighted. Granted it’s ONLY CONJECTURE on my part, I’m just thinking of how I think it would have gone given Paul’s confidence in Philemon’s love for the people in his care.
Now I have to admit.. I am not sure what to make of these verses “I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.” Is Paul saying this would be a gift to him for Philemon to take Onesims back? I know from verses 21 and 22 that Paul wants to come and see him. I know that he is fairly confident that Philemon will take Onesimus and be generous in the doing so, so I’m thinking that Paul is just trying to sweeten the pot a bit. Knowing Philemon’s heart is geared toward loving fellow believers and loving him so show this love by taking Onesimus back.
What do you my readers think? I am so far off?? Is my thought process reasonable?
But imagine it eh? Imagine someone having that confidence in you that you would do something for them. Imagine what Philemon’s witness would have been? To be known as one who dearly loves his fellow believers.
Do you have that type of love? I know that I struggle with it. I really do. I’ve been hurt one to many time by people professing to care for me (within the church) that I tend to be cautious and careful, giving trust slowly now (I used to give it too fast I think). And cautious love isn’t the type of deep love that it appears to me that Philemon had for the church. It’s something to aspire to isn’t it?
Because Christ had that kind of love, a HUGE love for the people of God. His love was so strong he DIED for me. Oh, that I might more easily love AND SHOW IT! See that’s key right? If Philemon didn’t show his love for God’s people who would even know? So I need to love and I need to show it…both things… More clearly.
So then… shall we practice loving God’s People? Letting that practice make our love real! Let’s eh?