"For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you." - Philemon, verse 7
Paul writes to his friend Philemon, who hosted the local church in the city of Colossi in his house. Paul himself had lodged with Philemon in his travels and hoped to do so again. Philemon was known for his generosity and kindness.
Paul writes to ask a special favor. It requires much tact and delicacy because it will mean a significant financial write-off on Philemon’s part and it also means a departure from the norms of society in that time and place. It might affect his pride and His standing in the community as a man of business.
Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who had run away. That was a crime. Legally, Onesimus had “stolen himself“ from his master. Philemon would be in His rights not only to return Onesimus to slavery but to punish him in any way he saw fit, and insist that Onesimus reimburse his master for the “lost time” while he was gone.
How it happened that Onesimus came to Paul, who was a prisoner in Rome at that time, we don’t know. Onesimus had become a Christian, grown in his faith, and had finally decided that it was time for him to voluntarily return to his master, Philemon, and ask for his forgiveness.
Paul reminds Philemon how his own life has changed since he became a Christian and how God has changed him from the cruel and self-centered man he had been before to one known for kindness. “The hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, my Brother.”
Paul writes with the confidence of a close Christian friend, makes his appeal, even offers to pay for the damages himself, and then says, “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.”
It apparently worked. Ancient history reports that Onesimus was not only forgiven but given his freedom and that he eventually became the Senior Pastor of the church in Collosi. That would mean that Philemon’s former slave became his Pastor.
What changes has God brought about in your life since you began to respond to Jesus as your Savior and Lord? In what ways are the hearts of the saints refreshed by you? Is God asking you to let something go, even though you may have every right to demand it?
Lord Jesus, work in my heart today. Open my ears to hear Your voice. Help me to respond in kindness and generous forgiveness, to refresh the hearts of my brothers and sisters. Amen.
Pastor Dan Giles