Philemon – Put into action the generosity that comes from your faith
“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 1:7
What an amazing story! A slave from Colossae runs away and makes it to Rome before he is arrested and jailed. His owner has no idea where he’s gone, all he knows it it’s bad for business. A servant earned their way like a field animal or a piece of equipment. One missing meant lost revenue. Bad morale among the staff. Angry owner. Not excusing slavery of any kind, it is not right, but keep in mind, this is set in the first century.
We aren’t told how everything transpired, we can only imagine the chain of events and conversations that may have taken place:
While in prison the young slave met the Apostle Paul. He is saved, changed, made new by Jesus Christ and baptized. Possibly because of his background he becomes an assistant to the Apostle, helping out, serving in any way he can. One day Paul asks, “So, where are you from, son.”
“Colossae. I was a slave.”
“A slave to man and now a slave of the Lord,” the Apostle may have smiled. “To whom were you a slave?”
“My Master was a man called Philemon.”
“Philemon? I know him! He is a good man. And he set you free?”
“I, uh, ran away.”
Meanwhile, things are different in Colossae. Philemon and Apphia have changed everything. Their spacious house has been converted into a house of prayer for the church. Philemon is a leader of the church, a Bishop, while his wife, Apphia, receives the sick and vagrants, ministering to their needs. Philemon and Apphia’s lives have completely changed since meeting Jesus Christ, and their testimony of love and generosity is becoming known throughout the region.
“I can’t go back. I will stay with you,” Onesimus thought.
“No, just to opposite, my son,” Paul decided. “You must go back. Neither you, nor me, nor our brother Philemon should carry this burden through life.”
And Paul writes a letter to His friend, asking him to put his generosity into action and receive the young man back, not as a slave this time, but as a brother. Paul asks, he doesn’t demand. And he tells Philemon to charge whatever the young man owes to his own account and the apostle will repay it.
Philemon receives the young man back and they are restored. Then, selflessly, Philemon sends Onesimus back to continue his service to the Apostle Paul.
Now, the spiritual, emotional and even physical chain of bondage over the entire situation is broken. It is a victory in the heavenly realm. Paul would never have to regret employing the young man and keeping the secret from his Christian brother, Philemon. Philemon would be released from any seeds of bitterness toward Onesimus, and residing anger he felt for being betrayed. And Onesimus could apologize, face to face, repenting for his actions toward Philemon and his household. Everyone is released.
Unresolved conflict between people is like a splinter under the skin. Though small and unseen it will prohibit you from full devotion to God because it demands your attention. There is queasiness in your stomach that never goes away until the issue is resolved.
Life is too short to harbor unresolved conflict with others. It is a festering splinter.
Historically, much of this story took place while Nero was Emperor of Rome and persecution of Christians was rampant.
Not too long after Philemon and Onesimus were restored and the young man was sent back to minister to Paul, there was a pagan feast in Colossae during which Christians gathered at the home of Philemon and Apphia to pray. So enraged were the pagans that they attacked the prayer meeting, dragging away Philemon, Apphia and Archippus. Archippus was stabbed repeatedly and died. Philemon and his wife were buried up to their waists and stoned to death.
Paul himself was martyred under Nero.
The only survivor? Onesimus, the former slave.
Onesimus became a Bishop and served faithfully in various cities and regions. In the year 109, over 40 years after being restored to Philemon, Bishop Onesimus was arrested, under the reign of Emperor Trajan, and beheaded for faithfully maintaining his faith in Christ.
Dear one, are there people in your life that have wronged you? and, though possibly separated by miles and even years, a splinter remains? infecting your soul, refusing to go away, always just a small trigger away from causing you pain? Follow the pattern of the holy Apostle Paul. Deal directly with the matter.
Put into action the generosity that comes from your faith and release them. Write off the debt they owe, cover them out of generosity. Because you, too, had a debt you could not pay and Christ generously covered you.