The book of Philemon is a small little book tucked away in the New Testament between the book of Titus and the book of Hebrews.
As with many of the Apostle Paul’s letters, this one is also written to a church. This particular church was meeting in the home of a gentleman named Philemon. Paul starts out by thanking this group of people for their partnership in the spreading of the gospel.
Some good things are happening among this home church. This church seems to be taking seriously the two most important commandments, love God and love others. We know this because in Verse 5 of Philemon, Paul says, “I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.” They were doing what they were called to do as the people of God.
I believe this church was effective for the sake of the gospel because of the next verse. In the New International Version 1984 it is translated this way, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
This was Paul’s prayer for this church. This has been a prayer I have adapted for own my life and church in recent months. I believe as followers of Jesus we must do whatever we can to be active in sharing our faith. Not only are we called to love God and love others, we are called to go. We are called to share with others how Christ has changed our life.
Paul is commending this church for its good works but in a way he is kind of setting the people up.
He goes on to share with this church about a young guy they know well named Onesimus. Paul is calling this church to reach out to everyone, including this guy. In Verse 11 of Philemon, Paul readily recognizes that Onesimus has had some struggles and even admits that at one time he was useless to them.
Sometimes followers of Jesus want to pick and choose whom they share their faith with. There are some individuals that we are not sure could ever be reached.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you may have someone like Onesimus in your life. You are not sure there is anything you could ever do or say that would help that person embrace the message of redemption.
Paul reminds the church that meets in Philemon’s house that even someone like Onesimus can be reached and can indeed change.
I like how Paul encourages this church to embrace this young man. Paul says, “I appeal to you on the basis of love.”
Paul appeals, rather than commands, that Onesimus be welcomed back into the fellowship of the church. Paul, as an apostle, could have commanded Philemon to take Onesimus back, but he does not do that. He appeals to Philemon. He not only appeals to him, but he does so on the basis of love.
Paul knows that a change of heart has taken place in Onesimus’ life. He can vouch for the change in this young man. Love can change just about everything.
The longer I follow Jesus, the more I believe that love is so important. When it comes to reaching out to those who are not yet in a relationship with Jesus, we must share with them the good news, all on the basis of love.
Paul set forth the example here for the church that met in Philemon’s house and for us today. As we reach out to others, we do so on the basis of love. As we encourage our fellow believers to reach out, we do so on the basis of love. Genuine love goes a long way in relationships.
As Paul begins to close this letter, he continues his appeal. He makes it abundantly clear that he is asking, not demanding, that they take Onesimus back.
If this church does accept Onesimus back, Paul wants them to know that the relationship will change. Onesimus will no longer be a slave, as he once was, but a brother within the family of God. Paul once again goes to bat for this young man.
He says, “If he owes anything, charge it to me.” That is real, genuine love. Paul has not only asked others to do something on the basis of love, but he is leading by example.
How do you make your appeal to others when it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ? Are you appealing on the basis of love or demands? I would encourage believers, based on the words of the apostle Paul, to appeal on the basis of love.