DAILY WORD 3/22/21
20. Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
21. I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!
22. One more thing — please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.
23. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings.
24. So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers.
25. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philemon 1:20–25 NLT
We have reached the conclusion of yet another Book of the Bible and another Letter of Paul, and as we do, we see him end his request of Philemon with confidence in his willingness to complete the work that he is asking him to do for him, and Onesimus, but more so, Christ and the Church itself.
What Paul has asked is no small feat. Let’s review. Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, has run away. He’s taken money and goods from his “master” to fund his trip across the region, and he ran to Paul, presumably to tell him about his treatment and to complain about his situation.
Onesimus pulled rank. He went to the one place that he knew his “master” couldn’t touch him and sought solace from the one person he wouldn’t disregard. Philemon could not ignore Paul if he told him to let Onesimus go. But that’s not what Paul did. Just the opposite; he sent him back.
Before we get to that though, let’s look at what else Paul did. He ministered to Onesimus. Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel of Christ and assumably didn’t have much pull or influence given his position. At least that’s what the Romans thought. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
As he sat in prison, with Onesimus supposedly ministering to him and helping him do the work of a Christian Leader, what was really happening, was Paul was planting seeds in Onesimus’s spirit. Before he made his decision to send the runaway back to his “master”, Paul’s Love, Concern, Edification, and Reproof toward Onesimus saw him accept Christ as his Savior and become a Christian.
Now, as a Christian brother, Paul had a couple of responsibilities. He had to ensure that Onesimus did the right thing and returned to Philemon’s house. Restitution had to be made, things had to be made right. This is what we do as Christians; we face the music when we’ve wronged another individual, including another Christian.
However, Paul had another responsibility; he had to be a Leader. As such, he had to Show and Teach Mercy. He asked Philemon to show Onesimus Mercy as he sent him back with the Letter we’ve been studying. But that’s not all, he also ensured that the debt that Onesimus owed Philemon for his theft would be paid, out of his own pocket no less.
Now, as we conclude the Letter, we see how Paul, the consummate Christian Leader, ended his request. In Verse 20, he essentially says, “Hey, thank you for doing this, brother. I know it’s a big ask but I’m sitting here in prison, and I need this. If that’s not enough to sway you, do it for Christ’s sake.”
Now, let’s be clear, this is not just some little “favor” Paul is asking. He is actually asking Philemon to defy long-standing Roman laws regarding slavery in the region. But that is part of the genius of his strategy. Paul is striking a stealthy blow at the very structure of slavery, without ever mentioning the practice at all.
He is displaying the proper attitude toward the “ownership” of another human being by asking Philemon to show Onesimus mercy, and the proper attitude of a Christian by ensuring that they both know that now that he has become a Christian, they are brothers. No longer do they have a relationship of slave and master; they are family members in Christ. As such, Paul knows that Philemon has to treat Onesimus, regardless of his social status, with a level of Respect and Love that becomes another Christian brother.
To punctuate his point and his expectations, in Verse 21, Paul says, “I know I can trust you to do this for me, brother. As a matter of fact, I am assured that you’ll go above and beyond my request. Thanks for that!”
Paul put Philemon in a position where, even if he was upset and wanted revenge against Onesimus for his blatant treachery, he couldn’t act on it without breaking Paul’s trust, hurting another Christian brother, and exercising his own selfish will and desires over the Mercy that God expects of all of His children.
And why is that Mercy expected? Why are we demanded to forgive those who have wronged us, even if they do not ask for it? Because God died for us while we were still in sin when we weren’t even looking for His Mercy. He put Himself on the Cross to spare us from a fate we totally deserved.
How can we do any less than that for those that do us dirty? If God would give up His Life for sinners, the least we can do is give them a second chance. Right? Paul ends his Letter in a way that shows his Faith in both Philemon’s follow through with his request and his Faith that God will answer this Faithful Leader’s prayers. He is displaying confidence in his Goodness and his Loyalty.
He tells him to prepare him a room to stay in when he gets there because he is sure that God will answer Philemon’s prayers to get Paul out of prison. This little, seemingly innocuous statement, shows us the confidence Paul has in Philemon and just how wise a Leader Paul really is.
He is putting the ball in Philemon’s court but he is also telling him that he’ll be there soon to make sure he’s done exactly what he asked him to do. This is the epitome of what Jesus said as he sent out His disciples out to Preach His Word, in Matthew 10:16. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
Paul is doing exactly what Jesus Called on His Leaders to do, and it is a Lesson all of us as Christian Leaders would do well to learn. We cannot just be Kind, Loving, and Merciful. We also have to be Wise, Shrewd, and Savvy. There are wolves out there seeking to slaughter the lambs God put us in charge of. How are you going to defend them, with smiles?
No! You have to be Strong, as well as Forgiving, Cunning, as well as Merciful. This is a war and God is Calling for Warriors, not pushovers. We are not sheep in wolves' clothing, we are something entirely more dangerous to the enemy. We are shepherds! We know the profile of the predators and are prepared to fight them tooth and nail. But we are also gentle and know how to provide exactly what the flock needs.
Sometimes it’s discipline. Sometimes it’s comfort. Other times, to save the sheep, we have to wade into the fray and battle bears and lions, let alone wolves. But we have been equipped with the Power of Christ for a reason, and it is not just to sit by and watch the sheep eat. Shepherding is an active occupation that requires Attention to Detail, Wisdom, and Courage. So, ask yourself; do you have what it really takes to Shepherd God’s sheep?
Have a Marvelous Monday and Spring Forth like a Flower and Bring Light and Joy to the World!