15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.
As Paul writes to his friend Philemon on behalf of his runaway slave Onesimus, he confirms to Philemon that his slave has now become a brother. I have worked both for Christians and for non-Christians. When working for a non-Christian the relationship is just a work relationship and less than a peer relationship as the owner saw me as nothing more than an employee doing his or her bidding. But when I have worked for a Christian we had family bond between us. Yes, I still worked as an employee but was able to fellowship as a brother in Christ. Paul was explaining this to Philemon. When Onesimus returned he would be more than a slave for he was now a brother in Christ. Jesus changes everything!
Then Paul tells his friend Philemon that any financial cost he has incurred in the loss of Onesimus to put that loss on Paul’s ledger and Paul would repay his friend on behalf of the runaway slave now become a brother. The burden of Philemon’s loss would naturally be placed upon the slave when he returned. He would be given more work, harder work, and longer work to make up for what he had cost his owner. Paul wanted to pay off all of Onesimus’ debt so that he would go back into the employ of Philemon without an extra burden. Maybe we should be less demanding of full justice on our brothers and sisters.
But then, notice that Paul reminded Philemon that he owed Paul his very life. In other words, Paul is asking Philemon to completely forgive any and all of Onesimus’ debt because he, Philemon, has been fully forgiven. This sounds like the parable in Matthew 18 only there the servant did not forgive the one who owed him a debt. Here Philemon shows the genuineness of his forgiveness by accepting Onesimus back as a brother and by forgiving all of his debt incurred before his salvation.
Yes, Jesus changes everything. If Philemon was not a Christian and if Onesimus had run away and been returned it would not have been a good day for either man. But in Christ, the return of the slave was the coming home of a brother and the rejoicing in all that Christ had done. I am thankful to be the man I am in Christ and not the man I would have been without Him. I am thankful that I can treat people as brothers and sisters and not as those who owe me something. I am thankful that having been forgiven I am able to forgive all who sin against me.
This Sunday, Jessica Schuessler is going to be with us in church. Jessica goes to abortion clinics for the express purpose of getting women to change their minds. Back in November a woman that Jessica worked with had her baby. The woman who had the baby had great need and we mentioned that need to our church. We were able to help this woman who choose life and demonstrate that we, the Christian community, would support her right decision. Jessica is seeking ongoing help to support women who choose life over abortion. I am sure her presentation will be challenging to us and I hope we can rise to the occasion to be a part of her rescue operations.
Men, we do have a prayer breakfast this Saturday morning at Denny’s at 7:30.
Please keep Richard Powell and his family in your prayers. His sister Joan died this week. She was 85 and fell asleep in a chair. Her husband is Daryl and Rich is with him in Michigan.
Have a great day in the Lord,