Posted by: arieliondotcom | September 14, 2012

The Greatness of Doing Good

Philemon was a Christian. He had ben converted to Christ by Paul himself and was well known in the Christian community because he had done so much good for fellow Christians. He was also a slave owner. That is, he had a servant, Onesimus, who had put himself in service to Philemon. The word slave here is really the idea of one who is so poor he contracts to work for another man until he makes enough money to be on his own again. But sometimes they are just living off of the goodness of the person they made a contract with. And from what Paul writes in his letter that is what happened here.

Reading between the lines of Paul’s letter we see that Onesimus worked for Philemon as an indentured servant but was a worthless worker. Instead of working he stole from Philemon and ran but was captured and thrown into prison. In one of those arrangements only GOD can do which we call “coincidence”, Onesimus is thrown into the same prison where Paul is being held in chains for telling people about JESUS. And that doesn’t stop Paul because while he’s chained up he tells his fellow prisoners, including Onesimus, about Christ and Onesimus becomes a Christian. As they get to know each other, Paul discovers they both know Philemon. Onesimus must have confessed to Paul what a worthless servant he was and that he had stolen from Philemon as Paul hints at in the letter. And we don’t know how Onesimus got free of prison. Did Paul and the others pay off whatever was owed and compel Onesimus, as a Christian, to go pay off his debt to Philemon? Had Philemon or the authorities tracked down Onesimus? We don’t know. The fact that Paul says he is sending Onesimus back to Philemon suggests Onesimus was free to return or not depending on his love for Christ and Paul.

But the point is that the impetus for all involved was Christians doing good for others based on the personal knowledge of the goodness of Christ to them. Paul, though imprisoned, loved Christ too much to keep quiet about Him even after being put in chains for it. His love compelled him to tell his fellow prisoners and even the guards. His goodness to Onesimus taught Onesimus to love and trust JESUS for himself. And as a new Christian, Onesimus returned to Philemon to serve out his contract out of Christian love, wanting to do good for Christ’s sake, for Paul’s sake, and out of kindness to Philemon, now his Christian brother. Paul even offers to pay off anything Onesimus had taken though he knew (though honestly willing to do it) Philemon would not require it & Onesimus was good for the debt. And Philemon, we know, known for his goidness to fellow Believers, would stretch even further to forgive and accept Onesimus back, now as a willing worker and fellow Christian. And if Paul should pass through town again, Philemon would give him a place to stay (a statement of faith since he was chained up and possibly under threat of execution at the time!). The three would be bound together as Christian brothers.

What slavery in our hearts is keeping us from loving and serving our fellow Christians with good works out of love for Christ?

Christians should be willing to do any good in their power for other Christians to show the power of Christ’s goodness to them. – See the Letter to Philemon

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