Sunday, September 04, 2016

Paul's Memo to Philemon

From: Paul, a prisoner...locked away in Ephesus for preaching Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To: Philemon our dear friend and Fellow-worker
To: Apphia our Sister
To: Archippus our Fellow-soldier,
And, by the way I’ve taken the liberty to CC this letter on to the church in your house… all those who see you as an upstanding and respected member of your community

Grace to you all and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I remember you all in my prayers, I always thank God for the love that you, Philemon, have for all the saints… every last Christian… new convert or Apostle… and your faith toward the Lord Jesus.
         I pray this: that this partnership, our fellowship in the faith, may have its powerful effect because you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ… even things that may seem strange and even unfavorable to you. Believe me, when I say your love has brought deep joy and comfort to me. My brother, you have refreshed the hearts of the saints… yes, sending Onesimus to relieve our burdens here in prison was a deeply kind, brotherly, thing you did for us prisoners for the gospel.
Because of all this, I could be bold, using the authority I have in Christ to command you to do your duty… but I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love.
Yes, I, Paul, an old man, imprisoned for the sake of Jesus Christ… I appear to you about my son, this child I fathered here in Prison, a convert, a new member of our family… I’m talking about Onesimus, “Mr. Useful.” There was a time when he was useless to you, but now he lives up to his name and is useful, both to you and to me.
I’m sending him back to you, but it is like sending my own heart. I’d like to keep him here with me… it’s a hard thing to let go of him… as I’m sure you’ll agree… You see, I’d like him to be here, continuing to serve me while I’m imprisoned for the Gospel, and beyond. But I don’t want to do anything unexpected without your consent, that way when you do what is right, you’ll do it voluntarily, instead of being forced to do the right thing.
Look at things this way, perhaps you’ve been separated from him for this time in order that you could receive him back forever… no longer as a slave working off his debt and waiting every moment for the full repayment so he can leave you, but as more than a slave, as a beloved brother…
         I love him deeply! How much more might you love him as a brother, both a brother in the flesh and in the Lord!
So, if you see me as a partner in your work for the Gospel—and everything you’ve done so far indicates you do—welcome him back as you would welcome me.
For that matter, if he’s wronged you, and if he owes you anything… which he does… charge it to my account.
I’m serious, take this letter as a promissory note, signed and everything! I will pay you anything he owes (and far be it from me to remind you that you owe me your very self… just like Onesimus currently owes you his self in service… I’d never mention that debt you owe me).
My brother, I want to get some use from you in the Lord, that would truly refresh my heart in Christ.
As I write this I am confident that you’ll do what I say, heck, you’ll do even more than I say—Onesimus will have that good of a homecoming.
Speaking of which… get a guest room ready for me, as well. I’m hoping that through your ongoing prayers for me, I’ll shortly be free, and will arrive at your place, wouldn’t that be great? Everyone will see how you welcome me and compare it to how you welcomed Onesimus!
The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,

PS My fellow prisoner Epaphras, as well as my fellow workers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, all know the contents of this letter… also, they say hi.