Scripture… Read the one chapter in the book of Philemon … Pauls shortest letter.
Philemon is the shortest of all Paul’s letters. A letter not written to a church but to a man named Philemon. Paul was a close friend to Philemon, whom he had led to Christ. Philemon had also helped start the church in Colossae. (vs 1-2) Philemon had a slave by the name of Onesimus who had wronged him and then run away. Onesimus somehow met Paul who was in prison, and during this meeting Paul lead him to faith in Christ. Paul was sending Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter to right whatever wrong he had done and to encourage Philemon to forgive him and receive him back, not as a slave but as a fellow believer. Much can be learned from all of Paul’s letters, but what are some of the principles of truth we can learn in the letter to Philemon?
Paul, in this letter, was working as a mediator between Philemon and Onesimus. Onesimus had committed an act that according to Roman law, could be greatly punished. He would have lived the rest of his life, if not captured, in hiding and running. Receiving forgiveness was the only way Onesimus would ever really live in freedom- Freedom that comes from being forgiven and received as a fellow believer by Philemon. Just like Onesimus, before a person comes to know Christ as Savior, he is also a slave- a slave to sin— sin which is a wrong against God and is greatly punishable. He is not free. Every person born needs a mediator… Jesus … who will speak on our behalf before God. God will forgive and receive us back when we repent of sin, and return to Him, acknowledging the sin we have done against Him. God is a forgiving God, and by His grace we are set free from the bondage of sin and its unavoidable consequence. We are received by God and made a part of the family. We no longer are separated from Him by our running from Him in our sin. This is the forgiveness every person born needs.
If you run away from something, that is what you will be doing all your life. It surely took courage for Onesimus to return to Philemon. Do you suppose that Onesimus had thoughts in his mind as to how Philemon would receive him? Would he forgive him or punish him? Would he take the council Paul had written in his letter to him or ignore it? It took courage for him to travel back to Philemon, but he desired to make right the wrong he had done as a result of his new life as a believer. One difference for the running in this world today is we know that God will receive us and forgive us when we return to a Him. God made the way through His own Son by making a road back to Him by the way of the cross. It takes courage to return to God, for Satan will try to discourage you with fear by the way of questions. Courage is believing and coming to God in faith when your legs are telling you to run.
Fellowship is a result of being where you need to be. Onesimus would never have experienced fellowship as a fellow believer with Philemon if he had not returned. Paul encouraged Philemon to receive Onesimus as a fellow believer equal to himself before God and not as a slave. When a person receives salvation in Christ, God does not look at us as runners/sinners but as his child. For to be in Christ is to experience a freedom that creates fellowship between God and that person. You will never be in fellowship by running from God but only by returning to God….. Where do you need to be?
Are you a runner today? Return to God by the way of the cross and be forgiven. Take courage in the truth of God’s word and stop listening to the lies of Satan. This will create for you a fellowship with God that will make life, even though difficult at times, worth living by living in a way that you will never know by running.
Because of His Grace ~ Pastor David