Owning Up to Christ
Paul’s letter to Philemon is one of the most beautifully written books of the bible. The delicacy with which Paul approaches his good friend and brother, Philemon, immediately takes on admirable qualities. Paul needed a favor of Philemon. He was sending Onesimus to him, a new convert to Christianity. He wanted Philemon to nurture this young man’s tender new faith. But there was a catch. Onesimus had once been Philemon’s slave, who had run away, and was now returning back home.
As we read the entire book, we thought – “This biblical account has the makings of a great movie.” Picture the courageous Onesimus returning to Philemon, holding his only defense for his actions, a letter from a friend.
Picture the compassion and forgiveness Philemon was asked to demonstrate to receive his runaway slave back without punishment. And picture the new relationship that would blossom between former slave and former master.
This entire book of the bible reads like a parable. You know what a parable is, don’t you? It’s a story with a hidden lesson, a heavenly story with an earthly meaning. And wrapped up in this story of Philemon and Onesimus are all the motives and principles of practical Christianity reduced down to one life lesson – the imitation of Christ. In this beautiful account, we see the Apostle Paul acting as a ‘type’ of Christ, an intercessor, pleading for the forgiveness of one he has saved from sin, and one for whom he is willing to pay the entire cost of that sin.
So today, rather than decipher this narrative from the viewpoint of Onesimus, or Philemon, or Paul, we want to take the message to a higher and greater plane of understanding that speaks to every Christian soul – and view it from the standpoint of our relationship with Jesus.
The verse we chose for our text summarizes the whole of the lesson. “I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto Me even thine own self besides.”
In the Living Bible it translates as “I will pay it back (I, Paul, personally guarantee this by writing it here with my own hand) but I won’t mention how much you owe me! The fact is - you even owe me your very soul!
So, we want us to reflect today on three things - OUR DEBT TO CHRIST, OUR OBLIGATION TO CHRIST, and OUR RESTITUTION TO CHRIST.
First, let’s look at our debt to Christ. The Christian teacher who leads a person to Christ has every right to say, “You owe yourself to me”. In fact, the Christian bond that knits all of us together as brothers and sisters shows a tenderness that cannot be overestimated. There is a sacred trust that has been established between us, because of our shared faith in Jesus The Christ. That’s the relationship that the Apostle Paul is tapping into, when he says to Philemon, “You owe me.”
But we want us to think higher than our relationship with each other and what we owe each other as fellow Christians.
We want us rather, to consider what we owe Christ....