Friday, August 12, 2011

I have derived much Joy and Comfort from your Love

“I have derived much joy and comfort from your love” (Philemon 7)

Could these words be said about your life from another brother or sister in Christ? Bringing “joy and comfort” to a fellow believer would surely bring great encouragement to our souls and also great glory to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thinking about the affect “your love” could have on a soul or many souls should be motivation to live a gospel saturated life.

Paul, writing to Philemon, says, “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love.” Paul had heard good reports from others about the life of Philemon. He was a member of the church of Colossae who had his slave, Onesimus, flee from his work. This letter in Scripture is Paul’s commending of Onesimus back to Philemon. Onesimus had since repented of his sin and given his life to Christ. Paul was a major contributor in the life of both Philemon and Onesimus so Paul wanted to see the relationship restored. He knows the character of Philemon and is trusting his love will carry over into the forgiveness of Onesimus sin against him.

Studying this book quickly makes us realize Philemon character should be the norm for Christians. What Onesimus had done to Philemon was a severe crime at the time. In our day when someone commits a sin against us we tend to hold a grudge without forgiving. Even when the offending party comes to repent and seek our forgiveness we often cling to the wrong committed. Philemon, on the other hand, tends to show a different portrait of forgiveness because his life has been changed by the gospel. His love for the saints is bringing “joy and comfort” to other believers who are not even in his own church. Paul had only heard of his love for other believers from other believers. This is a great testimony of grace in his life. This is how Paul could send Onesimus back to Philemon because he knew Philemon would be ready to forgive another believer. Paul is buttering him up but rather trusting in the power of the gospel.

Keep in mind Onesimus was potentially close enough to be back-handed by Philemon as he read Paul’s letter. But Paul was trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit to keep in his mind the truth which says, “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13). This implies that people will sin against you and even worse, other believers will sin against you. The answer to sin is always the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul says we must forgive the way Christ has forgiven us. Paul was confident sending Onesimus back because of the life transforming power of the gospel in Philemon’s life. This should be the kind of attitude every believer should display in their life. When the gospel has transformed to love and forgive the way Christ has loved us than we will bring joy and comfort to other believers. We will also show the world what it means to lay down our lives in surrender to the King of kings. Jesus gave us a new commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Christian, how are you doing in this area of your walk? When the world or other believers see a conflict in your life do they see a person who is striving to be like Christ or a complainer? Do they see someone who is unable to forgive the way Christ has forgiven? This is not easy but with the power of the Holy Spirit and the reminder of the empty tomb we can fight against our sin. May we turn to see the example of Philemon and hear, as he did, “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love.”

Grace upon grace,

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