PHILEMON 4-5 – I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.
THEME OF THE DAY. WHAT DO WE THINK OF ONE ANOTHER? Sometimes it is rather easy to start reading a book in the Bible, especially a New Testament letter, and just go through the introduction to get to the “good stuff” so to speak. This is a mistake. Not only because every word is God’s Word, but by rushing through a greeting to a letter, we may miss a precious truth to ponder and put into our lives. I must confess. I have been guilty of what I am exhorting us to avoid. And today’s scripture is one of those “don’t hurry through” introductions for it provides some very important instruction and example. Let’s set the stage . . .
The Apostle Paul is writing to a dear brother in the Lord, Philemon. He is appealing to him to show a heap of love and grace to a wayward and disobedient slave of his that has become his brother in Christ. That is the thrust of the message. Even though the emphasis is on Philemon’s action, Paul is a fine example on how we are to view and think of other believers in Christ. And this is a very important lesson.
Christians are to be known for their love and particularly their love for one another. Jesus said, “By your love for one another, all people will know you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). This love has many manifestations as given in the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13. A portion of this scripture reads, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). We may look at all of these and come away with another application of love for fellow Christians. It does not allow us to think bad thoughts of each other. Our love for one another prevents us from thinking or viewing negatively, harshly, or the worst in other believers. In fact, this love for other Christians does what the Apostle Paul did for Philemon. He thanked God for Him – “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers.”
Now examine ourselves according to the Apostle Paul’s example. Every time God brought the name “Philemon” to Paul’s mind, he thanked God for Him. Not sometimes, but all the time. Wow. Do I do that when God puts the name of a fellow believer in my thoughts? Do you? I am sure we do for some Christians, but for all Christians? Even the ones who might have done us wrong, hurt and sinned against us? It isn’t difficult to love those who love us. Jesus told us that (Matthew 5:43-48). The real measurement of whether we are under the control of Christ’s love is the impartiality of our love. His love controls us to love all people, even difficult people, even enemies.
Yet, the Apostle Paul’s example goes further. His love for Philemon was bathed in thanksgiving for Philemon. I was with a dear brother this morning who is a mentor and accountability partner. I looked at him and said, “I must confess. I don’t live enough of my life in the spirit of thanksgiving.” He immediately confessed it too. The seriousness about such a confession is that an evidence of being filled and walking in the Spirit is a heart of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:18-21). And that means in all things and for all people.
We have a fine example of the Spirit-filled life in the Apostle Paul and his thankful heart for his dear brother Philemon. Let’s seek the Lord, if need be in repentance and confession, that we might follow Paul as he followed Christ. Our joy in the Lord and healthy relationships with other Christians depend on this heart of thanksgiving.
PRAYER: “Father, help me to always give thanks for Your people that You have placed in my life.”
QUOTE: “Love is to be the distinguishing mark in God’s people and one display is our good thoughts of God’s people.”