01 June 2020 - Philemon

Good morning. Today’s devotion is taken from the book of Philemon.

The book of Philemon is only 25 verses long but contains important spiritual teachings for us to pray through. Paul was writing to his Christian brother, Philemon. The background of this letter is that a slave named Onesimus ran away from Philemon. Onesimus encountered Paul in prison and accepted Jesus through Paul’s ministry. Paul is writing to Philemon to urge him to treat Onesimus as a brother in Christ. (v.15 – v.16).

Standing in the gap
In Onenimus, we can see ourselves in our relationship with God. He was disobedient to Philemon and deserved punishment. Onenimus had a debt he cannot pay to Philemon.  All of us have a debt to God that we cannot pay but Jesus paid the penalty for us on the cross. Just as Jesus is interceding for us on our behalf, Paul is interceding for Onenimus.  Paul stood in the gap for his Christian brother which is his God-given responsibility to remind Philemon to live a Christlike life that pleased and honoured God. Its incredible to think that Paul, a prisoner, accepted full financial liability for anything that Onenimus might owe to Philemon. By standing in the gap, Paul also brought peace to an unstable situation and to restore a broken relationship. God desires us to live at peace with others as much as is in our power to do so (Romans 12:18), and to be peacemakers. Jesus stood in the gap, praying from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke23:34). Onenimus didn’t deserve the grace and love that Paul showed him but we didn’t deserve God’s grace and love either. Who can we stand in the gap for tomorrow?

Loving others
Philemon was known for his love for God’s people. It was because of him and his generosity that the Colossian church was established and flourished. Philemon’s love was a blessing not only to those who received it, but also to those who heard about it. Paul wrote – ‘I always thank God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing of your trust in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. (Philemon 1:4-5)

But now Philemon’s Christian love about to be put to the test. Not only was he to love his friends, he is now requested to love someone who wronged him and deserved punishment.  Paul was asking Philemon to live out Jesus’ commands to love our enemies (Luke 6:32-36). We are told to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds, but then we are also told to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are told in Luke 6 to be merciful just as our Heavenly Father is merciful. Jesus endured suffering and hostility but still forgave them at his crucifixion.  Sometimes loving our neighbors is not easy and choosing to love our enemies is almost impossible. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to put our feelings aside and allow Him to do a transforming work in us.  We must embrace and live out the radical love that Jesus showed us by dying on the cross when we were sinners. When we show mercy and love, we glorify God. 

“LORD, thank you for standing in the gap for us and we thank You for the debt paid on Calvary for us. Teach us to love others as much as you love us. Teach us to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Grant us a compassionate and merciful heart. Amen.