Read: Philemon 1
I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, 5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. 6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Philemon 1:4-6
Today’s reading is rather short, but I found it to contain a couple of important, practical lessons for us as followers of Christ. Paul most likely wrote Philemon somewhere between 62 – 64 AD while imprisoned in Rome. One of the lessons I see from Philemon is that as Christians, even when we are suffering, as Paul was suffering through imprisonment, we are still called to shine the light of Christ to those around us. By taking our focus off of ourselves and placing it instead on God through prayer, reading the Bible, and service to others, we are able to rise above the circumstances we are in. Paul choose to focus his time in prison on serving others (in this case speaking out for the release of Onesimus) rather than being despondent about being in a prison cell yet once again. This pattern can be applied to pretty much Paul’s entire ministry – if you look back, he appears to spend his time out of prison preaching the Gospel to the new Christian churches (some of which he founded). We know from reading our Bibles that Paul was imprisoned multiple times. Even while in prison, he continued his ministry. During these periods of imprisonment, he wrote letters encouraging and instructing the new churches. We also know from Acts 16: 16 – 40 that Paul used these opportunities in prison to spread the gospel to those around him.
A second lesson that I get from Philemon is how Paul communicated with Philemon, His brother in Christ. Even though Paul disagreed with Philemon’s enslavement of Onesimus, he approached Philemon in love. Paul pointed out that Onesimus had already been and would continue to be much more useful if he were no longer Philemon’s slave (interestingly enough, the name Onesimus means “useful).
Even though we’re Christians, we will still disagree with our fellow Christians because we’re still human and make mistakes. Sometimes we’ll be right and sometimes we’ll be wrong. Regardless, we need to approach our brothers and sister in love (sometimes it needs to be firm love as Paul resorted to on occasion such as in verse 19 of Philemon and in 1 Corinthians). The Bible teaches us to confront fellow believers, but it also teaches us to do so prayerfully, humbly, gently, and lovingly. I think the example Paul sets in his letter to Philemon is one we can all learn from.
Prayer: Lord, please help me to focus on you and not on my own circumstances. Help me to reflect your light and love to others around me even when I’m suffering or going through trials. Please also help me be encouraging to fellow believers. I pray for discernment in my interactions with believers; equally important, I pray to be humble and loving in those interaction. In Jesus’ Name… Amen