Monday Musings with Julie

This Sunday Ray shared from the book of Philemon, which is a letter
written by Paul to Philemon, the pastor of the church in Colosse. Paul
writes this letter from prison, as a plea for his fellow prisoner, and now
close friend, Onesimus, who was the slave of a member of Philemon’s
church.
In Philemon 1:8-10 we hear Paul’s appeal: “Therefore, although in Christ I
could be bold and order you to what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal
to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul-an old man and
now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus-that I appeal to you for my son
Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.”
Here we see Paul acknowledge his disapproval of slavery by stating that he
could be bold and order him to do what he should, but Paul desires to allow
love to be the driving force. We see the love more profoundly in verses 12-
16, “I am sending him-who is my very heart-back to you. I would like to
keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am
in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your
consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be
voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated form you for a little while
was that you might have him back forever-no longer a slave, as a dear
brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man
and as a brother in the Lord.”
Paul is in fact imprisoned for sharing the gospel, it’s why he uses the term,
“a prisoner to Christ Jesus”. In his imprisonment, in his chains, in this
desperate situation that could have broken Paul, rather than stewing in
anger and pity, he is so secure in how loved he is by Christ, that he’s
burdened to share it. But Paul doesn’t just share Gods love with words, the
burden was so strong, that he takes it a step further, and makes an appeal
on behalf of another man. We may think that’s enough, he writes a nice
letter asking for this man’s freedom, and that’s enough… But Paul knows
how deeply he’s loved, and what that means he’s called to do, Paul knows
that’s not enough.
Verses 17-19, “So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would
welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it
to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back-not to
mention that you owe me your very self.”

Now we see Paul go even further, he states that he will pay back whatever
the man owes, he will take the charge for any wrongdoing that Onesimus
has committed. Paul understands the fullness of what Christs death on a
cross represented, and what it meant for ALL who decide to follow Jesus.
Paul understood that freedom is never free, and that in order to do what
Jesus called us all to do, he would have to do what Jesus did. Paul
understood what it means in 1 John 4:11-12, “Dear friends, since God so
loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God;
but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in
us.”
What Paul did in writing that letter to Philemon, was a perfect
representation of what Christ did for all of us. Jesus didn’t just live his life
walking around and telling the world how much he loved them. His love
was action, He cared for the poor, freed the oppressed and imprisoned…
Paul knew without a doubt that he was loved by God and that
overshadowed everything else, he stood firm in his identity in Christ and
was able to see everything before him, as an opportunity to love others.
In the midst of our current circumstances, our own pain, our own prisons,
are we simply slaves to them, or do we know without a doubt, that we’re
loved by a God that sent His son to die on a cross for our freedom. We get
to decide what we do with that freedom, how we see the world with that
same love that saved us.
Church, when we can stand firm in knowing we are loved by God, then we
have the opportunity to love the world how He loves us. We have a lens to
view the people around us as worthy of that same love no matter who they
are. And we have the charge to do something with that love, to take action.

~Julie Longwood

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