#DailyDevotion Why Should I Do This Again?…Love
Philemon 8For that reason, although I feel bold enough in Christ to order you to do what is right, 9I am moved by love just to urge you. As Paul, an old man and now a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I have been in chains. 110nce he was useless to you, but now he’s quite useful to you and me
12I’m sending him back to you — and my heart goes with him. 13I would have liked to keep him with me and have him serve me in your place while I’m in chains for the good news, 14but I don’t want to do anything without your approval. I don’t want you to be kind because you must but because you want to be. 15Perhaps Onesimus left you for a while only to be yours again forever, 16no longer a slave but more than a slave, a dear fellow Christian, especially to me, but how much more to you, as a man and as a Christian.
Paul now gets to the meat of the letter. You see Philemon is a slave owner. Onesimus is one of Philemon’s slaves who apparently ran away at some time. Onesimus is now with Paul and is a Christian and is helping Paul while he is in prison. Now a runaway slave in Paul’s day could be executed so this is a precarious situation. Now Paul appeals to Philemon as a Christian, a Christian who owes Paul his very soul because Paul brought to Philemon eternal life.
(As an aside, we shouldn’t cast unto people in the past our current life situations.) Well how does Paul address this situation? He acknowledges he could be bold enough to order Philemon to do what is right and what would that be? To forgive Onesimus and to treat him as a Christian brother. Paul never says he needs to free Onesimus but their relationship should change. No Paul is moved by love just to urge Philemon to do what is right. Love is the motivation for what we as Christians do, whether love for God or love for our fellowman. Commandments are for the old flesh when love is not active in us.
Onesimus means useful. Apparently as a slave of Philemon he was useless. But having become a Christian, Philemon has become useful to Paul and can be useful to Philemon. Onesimus was helping Paul while he was in chains, most likely in Rome. So useful is Onesimus to Paul that he had become like a son to him. But Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon, no doubt with this letter in hand. He is going back with Paul’s own heart. While he would like to keep Onesimus there helping him, Paul wants to do what is right and only have him there with Philemon’s approval.
What we see here is a change of relationship between people when they become Christians. We see here a change of motivations of why we do what we do. Paul wants Philemon to treat Onesimus as a man and a Christian, not just as property, because he wants to, not because he must. Paul wants Philemon to be kind to Onesimus because he wants to be kind to him. They are all brothers in Christ, part of the same body, saved by the same blood of Christ.
Now what does this have to do with you and me? A couple of things: One, we should be good and do good because we love God. Two, we should want to kind and good to our fellow Christians because we have the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has treated us with love and kindness. Three, our love for our fellow Christians should outdo our love for others (yes we should love and do good to them too, but these are the people who are one body with us for all eternity). If Freemasons and Muslims can appeal to their fellowship to get assistance from one another and these are worldly organizations, how much more can the members of the body of Christ appeal to one another out of love for Christ and what he has done for us?
Heavenly Father, grant us you Holy Spirit and faith so we may know the great love and mercy you have shown us in Christ so we may return that love for you and for our fellow Christians. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.