a monthly devotional journal
Issue No. 62
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul--an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus--I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
I am sending him--who is my very heart--back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good-- no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back--not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
[A letter from the apostle Paul to his friend and brother in Christ, Philemon. (Philemon 1:1-25)]
[Editor's note: In this Internet Edition, text that is indented twice represents the text of Philemon's written reply to the apostle Paul.]
Philemon, a follower of our Lord Jesus,
To my brother and friend, Paul; to Timothy, his son in the Spirit and fellow worker:
The members of this household--as well as those who worship in it--greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The blessings of God upon you both, as you, Paul, suffer imprisonment for His name and glory. It is with a heart filled with an uncomfortable blend of gratitude and righteous anger that I answer your recent letter. Let this reply, in your hands, indicate sufficiently that yours arrived safely, with dispatch, by way of the assigned courier.
I will confess to you that it was not a pleasurable emotion that coursed through me when I first laid eyes on my returning slave. When, from a distance, I spied the absent Onesimus traipsing down the road--as if pursuing nothing more than a pleasurable romp in the afternoon sun--the rage so long nurtured in me rose like last evening's beans. How dare he come back to me with such a carefree air about him!
I will confess to you, however, that it was with a certain measure of shame that I suddenly remembered the story told by the Lord when He had occasion to teach to a number of tax-gatherers. Quite unexpectedly, I saw myself in the role of the father whose son had abandoned his responsibilities, only to finally regret his life of dissipation and debauchery, and to return with his tail between his legs. Because my 'son' was returning--not in shame, but with great glee and bounding spirit--I was filled with unquenchable anger, rather than the compassion expressed by the father in Jesus' story.
Read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24.
As you know well, Paul, I am a businessman, and one who subscribes to the twin philosophies of promises kept and debts repaid. I believe in fairness, but also corresponding responsibility, and my initial reaction to my slave's return was one of fierce retribution over his promises broken and his debts left unpaid.
My good friend Paul: Though I love you as both brother in Christ, and as my Spiritual 'father,' I must, with regret, address you with what might be perceived as brutal candor.
When the slave Onesimus handed me your letter, and I began to read your words, my anger was kindled anew when I realized that you had been the one harboring this fugitive. When one loses a valuable resource, there is a small comfort in supposing that the loss has not been compounded by someone else taking possession of that same resource. In that event, simple loss suddenly becomes theft. The knowledge that you, my brother, were the one in possession of my lost resource filled me with a powerful resentment that has not yet subsided. But, I admit, he is well, and certainly fit for new service ...
"I just heard he was back!"
His attention still on his thoughts and the letter being penned to his friend, Philemon did not even look up when his wife, Apphia, flew into the room. "What's that, dear?"
"Is it true? Onesimus has returned? Who brought him?"
"No one," Philemon answered, finally pulling himself away from his private thoughts. "He returned on his own."
Apphia was stunned into silence. How remarkable, that a runaway slave would actually return by his own choice! Onesimus was not ignorant; he knew that the punishment for running away could be harsh. This was all very inconvenient; as the woman of the house, and the one in charge of the household slaves, it would fall to her to address the situation.
"What did he have to say for himself?" She asked.
"Not much. He went through all the motions, said all the right words. He was suitably repentant, threw himself at my feet and all. But it seemed almost a charade; even as he clutched at my ankles, he could barely keep himself from grinning up at me!"
"Now we're going to have to do something about it," Apphia said with a sigh. "It was almost easier when he was still a runaway."
"But there's something else," Philemon said. "The situation's been muddied by this." He handed the rolled letter from Paul to his wife. "What's this?"
"Our runaway has been in the company of Paul."
Apphia lifted her gaze off the fresh papyrus scroll to stare at her husband. "Paul? But he's in prison."
"Yes, I know. Apparently, Onesimus found his way to him. He must have heard our discussions regarding Paul's welfare. Remember, the church has been lifting up prayers on his behalf; Onesimus must have overheard, and gone to him."
"I wouldn't know why he went to him in the first place, but, according to Paul's letter, Onesimus has been of some value to him. As a matter of fact, they've become quite close."
"So instead of returning him to us," Apphia said incredulously, "Paul kept Onesimus as his own servant."
"Not quite." Philemon frowned as he turned back to continue with his reply.
My dear friend, I am not unsympathetic to your plight. You already know that Apphia and I, along with everyone who meets in our home, continually beseech the Lord on your behalf. We consider your current imprisonment to be a gross unfairness. Yes, we have heard of your witnessing for Christ there, and we praise God for the many opportunities for this. But we also know how much further this witness could be spread, were you free of Rome's chains.
Would that my faith were as constant as yours. From you, my friend, I learned of Christ; from you I have learned to place my trust in Him as Lord. But what you have not yet taught me well is to remember that He--and He alone--is the one who orders the stars, and the events in our lives. How much I hate the thought of you in prison! How I would rather have you here with me. Pray for me, that I will learn obedience and trust.
Your words of gratitude are a soothing oil upon my head. Modesty demands that I protest your glowing words of affirmation, yet I would not lie to you (you, who would, of course, see the lie coming from afar off) and say that they are of no consequence to my life.
It pleases me that even from this distance you are aware of my love for you. If I hate the thought of you in chains, that thought, nonetheless, only deepens the love I have for you. And when I hear how you have been encouraged by our lives, I am reminded how much you have encouraged ours.
Let me be of further encouragement by telling you of last evening's events. If you remember, when you were last here you baptized a husband and wife: Lucian and Claudia. If their faces have been lost in the veritable sea of faces to which you have ministered, be reminded that it was the radiant and expectant face of Claudia, coming up out of the water, that brought such joy to your heart. After their many trials--especially those with their rebellious son--it was with a singular relief that they fell into the supportive arms of our Lord, giving every one of their cares over to Him.
The young boy's name was Alexander--that young rascal who brought so much sorrow into their life. If you recall, you spent no insignificant amount of time with him, helping him to understand the forgiving grace of Jesus. But to no avail; when you eventually left our home to travel to Ephesus, young Alexander was as rebellious as when you had first arrived, and your spirits were low because of his stubbornness toward Christ.
He remained so for some time, bringing heartache, even despair, to his parents. They stayed faithful, however, spending much time on their knees, patiently pointing the boy in the right direction--whether he liked it or not!
But the day came when those many prayers were answered. So permit me to bring you the glad tidings that the seeds you sowed into that small life have finally taken root.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 1 Cor. 3:5-9
Your planting, combined with the watering and careful cultivation by many in this church, has resulted in a new soul being added to the Book of Life. Yesterday he declared his allegiance to Christ, and last evening, with his proud parents beaming from the shore, Alexander was baptized. Praise God!
My brother Paul, that having been said in all sincerity, I now feel my thoughts returning to the matter at hand. My mind and heart seem split, as if being controlled by two separate spirits.
There is that strong part of me that wants desperately to help you in every way possible--to minister to your needs in the way you have so often ministered to mine. For the sake of this discussion, we might refer to this part as being controlled by the Jesus Spirit.
But there is also that equally strong part of me that desires nothing less than justice where wrong has been done. Fairness insists that people--be they free or slave--be held accountable for their transgressions. We could say that this part of me is controlled by the business spirit.
For the moment, the spirits on either end of the rope in this tug-of-war are of equal weight and strength. And I am in the middle! What to do?
Onesimus--heretofore, an able and dependable servant--did not leave this house empty-handed. While it is true that he did not abscond with as much as he could, he did help himself to some of our stores and a small purse. Regardless his status from here on out, these must be repaid.
The sun was melting into the distant horizon, painting the garden in deep shades of burnt orange, when Apphia joined her husband for their usual evening chat--a custom they had kept since their second day of marriage. In this quiet moment, while the day reached toward it's end, Philemon and his wife would let the events of the day just past simmer into their conversation, while they looked forward to the new day approaching. Here they talked--quietly, simply--and patiently listened to no one else but the other.
The olive wood bench was nestled between two myrtle bushes, and the whole area was scented by their evergreen fragrance. The bench was hard, but its seat, nevertheless, had two distinct impressions from where the couple had ended many years of days.
"What are you going to do?" Apphia asked her husband.
"I don't know yet."
"Paul will be expecting your answer."
"I know that."
"He wants you to send Onesimus back to him, doesn't he?" She asked.
"Paul makes that quite clear in his letter. He stops short of saying it, but it's clear."
"So why don't you do it?"
"Send him to Paul?" Philemon stiffened, turned to his wife. "What will that say to the other servants? That will give tacit permission for all the servants to leave whenever they like and make another life for themselves. What will that do to my authority? And where in that does Onesimus meet his responsibilities to me?" He sagged down into himself. "No. It wouldn't be right."
Apphia nodded her head in agreement. "I hate to think of Paul going through this--but after all, he's not alone. His letter says that Timothy and Mark, Demas, Aristarchus and Luke are there with him. Why would he need Onesimus?"
Philemon withdrew the small scroll from inside his robe. "We only have what he says: 'I would have liked to keep him.' And he says that Onesimus has 'become useful' to him."
"Maybe you should send a letter back to Paul, asking for more details," Apphia suggested. "Then we can better make the decision."
"Have you spoken with him yet?"
"Onesimus. He's been in his quarters since he returned." "I sent him there. I wanted time to let the anger wash out of me before dealing with him."
"And has it?"
"Are you still angry with Onesimus?"
"Oh, I rather think I'm more angry with Paul, than the slave. In Onesimus' position, I suppose I'd have done the same thing. What I can't abide is that Paul didn't send him back to me immediately. That would have been the right thing for him to do."
Apphia gazed off toward the west, toward the orange ball now almost lost below the horizon. She sighed, and said, "It would be different if Onesimus were part of the family, instead of a slave. Then it would just be a family decision."
Her statement stabbed into Philemon like a hot knife. But of course, it was a family decision. How had Paul put it? 'I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. I am sending him--who is my very heart--back to you.' And later he had written that Philemon should think of Onesimus 'no longer as a slave, but ... as a dear brother.'
Philemon turned toward his wife and said, "But Onesimus is a part of the family."
"Wherever Christ is welcome, He expects that His disciples
should be welcome too.
When we take God for our God, we take His people
for our people."
|Psalm 119:63||Romans 1:11-12||Philip. 2:3-8|
|Matthew 5:16||Romans 14:1-4||1 Thes. 4:18|
|Matthew 18:20||Romans 14:16-15:7||1 Thes. 5:11|
|Matthew 20:25-28||1 Cor. 10:16-17||1 Thes. 5:14|
|Matthew 23:8||1 Cor. 10:24||Hebrews 3:13|
|Luke 22:31-32||1 Cor. 10:31-33||Hebrews 10:23-25|
|John 13:33-35||1 Cor. 12:13||Hebrews 13:1|
|John 17:11-23||2 Cor. 4:5||James 5:16|
|Acts 2:42||2 Cor. 8:9||1 Peter 2:17|
|Acts 2:44-47||Galatians 6:2-10||1 Peter 3:8-9|
|Acts 20:35||Ephes. 5:19-30||1 John 4:7-8|
|1 John 4:11-12|
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philip. 2:1-4
"In his day, Melancthon mourned the divisions among Protestants and sought to bring them together through the parable of the war between the wolves and the dogs. The wolves were somewhat afraid, for the dogs were many and strong, and so they sent out a spy to observe them. On his return the scout said, 'It is true the dogs are many, but there are not many mastiffs among them. There are dogs of so many sorts one can hardly count them. And as for the worst of them,' he said, 'they are little dogs, which bark loudly but cannot bite. However, this did not cheer me so much,' said the wolf, 'as this: that as they come marching on, I observed they were all snapping right and left at one another, and I could see clearly that though they all hate the wolf, yet each dog hates every other dog with all his heart.' I fear it is true still, for there are many believers who snap right and left at their own brothers, when they should save their teeth for the wolves. If our enemies are to be put to confusion, it must be the united efforts of all the people of God: unity is strength."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Eccles. 4:9-12
"Communion is strength; solitude is weakness. Alone, the fine old beech yields to the blast and lies prone on the meadow. In the forest, supporting each other, the trees laugh at the hurricane. The sheep of Jesus flock together. The social element is the genius of Christianity."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
It was the one room of the house in which none of the slaves were permitted. It was here that Philemon conducted his business affairs in relative solitude and quiet. Here was the one room in which he could call upon all of his well-practiced abilities to make the deals that kept him and his family wealthy.
This too, since Philemon had become a believer, was where he came to commune with God and worship his Savior. In this quiet place where no others were allowed, he could focus all of his thoughts and adoration upon the one who gave His life that he might live.
It was upon the heavy, wooden door to this room that the slave knocked.
"Come in, Onesimus," Philemon answered. The cedar door swung out slowly, and Onesimus stepped inside. "Sit down here, next to me."
The slave, with head lowered respectfully, crossed the room and perched nervously on the low stool that was positioned next to where Philemon sat waiting.
Onesimus was a rather ordinary-looking man, somewhere around twenty-five or thirty years of age--although no one really knew how old he was. He had been purchased by Philemon five years earlier from a passing caravan that included a group of prisoners from Crete. Philemon had selected him for his strong back, but soon Onesimus' unique brand of earthy intelligence won him a position of trust within the household.
He kept his gaze lowered, as if studying the floor, while Philemon chose his words.
"I've read Paul's letter carefully," he began. "He speaks most highly of you."
"Tell me why you ran away. Did we treat you unfairly?"
"Oh, no, master."
Slowly and methodically, after a moment's thought, Onesimus began, "You never invited me into your meetings, but I could hear what was being said. At first your discussions were confusing, and your prayers were foreign to any experience of mine. But little by little, I came to be curious about these things. Then my curiosity became something more--I wanted to understand." He took a breath, as if gathering courage to go on.
"You and the others spoke often of the man Paul. I do remember the time he was here, but nothing else. You spoke of him as you would a leader--yet he wasn't actually here. You gave his words great weight. They were important to you."
"You never said anything to me," Philemon interrupted.
"It would not have been proper to share my feelings with you, my master."
"I've always treated you well."
"Yes, you have," Onesimus quickly agreed. "But there is a fixed distance between master and slave. I could not share it with you."
"But you could with Paul?" Philemon said, only partially hiding his disappointment.
"Paul is not my master."
An awkward silence fell over them for a few moments. Then Philemon said, "But why did you leave?"
Onesimus thought carefully before answering, and when he did, it was with his face once again to the floor.
"I know it was wrong to leave, and I ask your forgiveness. But I don't know if I can put into words why I did."
"Try. Speak freely."
"I was not leaving here--but going there."
"Not a place, but an idea. I was filled with a desire to know more about this Jesus you spoke of and prayed to."
Philemon blurted out, "I would have told you."
"Forgive me, master, but I did not feel comfortable bringing it to you."
"Go on," Philemon said, sadness creeping into his voice.
"From what I had overheard, I knew the city where Paul could be found--and I still had his face in my memory. It took me many days, but I finally found the jail he was in. For awhile, after that, I did nothing but sit at his feet, listening to his words about Jesus.
"Slowly, after many more days, I began to ask my questions. He always answered them--sometimes with words that needed explaining, but he always answered them. What surprised me was that he never concerned himself with who I was, or why I was there. Oh, in time he learned that I was of your house, but he never pried into the reasons for my being there with him. He just accepted me."
A small smile spread over his face as Onesimus continued. "After awhile, I began doing things for him. Small things--sometimes just sitting with him after everyone else had left. He seemed to take comfort in having me there with him. I don't know why. He spoke often of you and mistress Apphia. He remembered you fondly, telling me about the many things the two of you had done for the other believers--in your church and elsewhere.
"One day--it was late, long after everyone else had left--he turned and looked into me, and said, 'Onesimus, I've told you much about Jesus. Now I want you to tell me what He means to you'' It took me a long time to find the words, but I told him that I believed that Jesus was really God--God in flesh; that this God was the only true one, that all other gods were false; and that when Jesus died on the cross, my sins died there with Him. I told him that because of Jesus, my many sins were forgiven.
"What I said pleased him, but he said, 'You still haven't told me what Jesus means to you' What I told him was that I now felt part of something new and different, that I now had a new master--one who would always care for me and love me. But more than that, I knew that I would never again feel alone, that I would always have brothers and sisters who would support me--just like those who were there supporting Paul. I knew that my past life no longer mattered. What really mattered was my new life, and those who would share it with me. The next day, Paul had John Mark take me to a nearby stream, where he baptized me."
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked."I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!""Yes, Lord," he answered. The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, Acts 9:1-18
Though Philemon stared at Onesimus, his eyes were unfocused, his gaze distant. As images of Paul and his servant together played over and over in his mind, he struggled to suppress the feelings of jealousy--even betrayal--that surged in him, trying to accept the events and changes that had transpired. He fought against the anger he felt from being helpless--from not having any control over what had taken place between his friend Paul and his servant Onesimus. At last, he spoke.
"Why did you come back?"
"I guess there were several reasons. First, because Paul wanted me to. I owe him a great debt, and I felt that by serving him, I am serving my Lord. I also felt the need to ask your forgiveness. I was wrong to leave, I know that. You are my master, and I am to obey you.
"The real reason I returned, well--it's harder to explain. I don't know if I have the words for it. Being there, with Paul, I came to understand that living a life with Christ is more than just believing. At first, when he spoke of having a personal faith, I thought that meant that our faith was to be kept separate from each other--that the only thing that mattered was what was between us and Jesus.
"But then I learned that the truth is quite the opposite. Before Christ, we were separate; living under him, we are all connected--members of each other.
"While I was there, I could see with my own eyes how important it was for others to encourage Paul in his work--and especially in his imprisonment. He would have days when the reality of his situation would press down on him like a heavy weight. He would think that all his work for the Lord had been in vain, despair would creep up on him, and he would begin to lose hope.
"But then would come word of victories in Perga, or a great Spiritual revival in Miletus, or he would receive a personal letter from a dear friend that just said how much they loved him. What a difference these would make! After being there, I know that these words of encouragement literally kept him alive. Without them--and the brothers and sisters who were there in person--Paul would have lost all hope.
"So--and I'm not sure I can explain this well--I realized that I had to return, to bring his letter to you, to keep that connection alive. I can't read--you know that--so I don't know what his letter says. But I know that you are dear to him, and that if he needs you, or he needs me, we should do everything we can for him."
Philemon looked upon this man who had changed before his very eyes. Or was it he who had changed? Onesimus had entered the room a slave; he would be leaving a man--a brother. What miracle had transpired in that Roman cell?
After a long silence Philemon, his voice heavy with emotion, quietly said, "Thank you for being honest with me. You may go now."
Onesimus rose from his stool and left the room, shutting the heavy cedar door behind him.
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly. "Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Mark 14:3-9
My dear brother and friend in the Lord Jesus Christ:
Abject humility can be an ugly thing in one so proud as I, but at the risk of possibly fatal ugliness, I will attempt to put words to the utter humiliation I am now feeling in my heart.
You may be wondering why I have chosen to append this to an already hopelessly ugly letter. Rather than my starting over, let the existence and reading of what has gone before stand as part of my humiliation. Stand on the streetcorner and shout out its words! to make public the evidence for the shame I now feel.
Dear Paul, I am a well-educated and wealthy man; I am a respected member of my community; and I hold a position of some tangible weight in the local Christian community.
I am a person of substance who has just been taught a most profound lesson of life by a common slave.
No--let me amend that. I am mistaken on both counts. Onesimus is no longer anyone's slave--and he is anything but common. I have this day released Onesimus from all obligations to me and, as he is now in your presence, let the delivery of this letter demonstrate that he is now, indeed, a free man.
While I am embarrassed by my gross stubbornness, I am rejoicing that Christ saw fit to take pity on my stupidity, and perform surgery on this cancer before The Day.
I confess to you that when Onesimus first arrived here bearing your letter, I did not welcome him as I would you. My treatment of him was both stern and petulant. I boxed him away for a period of punishment, all the while serving only to punish myself. I tried to be angry with him, but soon realized that instead, I was angry with you for keeping him from me.
But God has worked a miracle in my life by graciously changing my vision: He has changed my sight, so that now I see Onesimus not as a possession, but as a man and brother. He no longer belongs to me; neither does he belong to you.
He belongs to Christ.
I see now why Onesimus has become precious to you. This brave and deeply Spiritual man has afforded me the opportunity to witness the finest example of what it is to be a servant--not of man, but of Christ.
Though he did steal from me, Onesimus does not have anything to repay. For I have been repaid in full by the lessons he has taught me with his life of gentle humility.
With a glad and grateful heart I return Onesimus to you--not as his master (for he is no longer a slave to anyone but his Lord, Jesus Christ) but as our friend and brother.
May you profit from his life as much as I have.
Grace to you, brother Paul. I need not prepare a room for you; you may have mine!
The members of this household--Apphia, Archippus, and I--send you and your fellow workers our greetings, as well as our constant prayers for your release.
The Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ be a comfort to you in our absence.
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:1-7
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:12-17
Issue No. 62
[1.] Philemon 1, 24. (return to footnote 1)
[2.] Philemon 13,11. (return to footnote 2)
[3.] Philemon 10, 12, 16. (return to footnote 3)
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