by guest blogger Rebekah Bush
We all have friendships that can be difficult or draining, but have you ever been with someone that’s completely refreshing to you? What a joy it is! I had a friend over last week and we chatted about basically everything under the sun while our kids splashed in the pool and soaked up the sun. To be fair, we had a million interruptions for snack requests, breaking up skirmishes and helping the younger boys with different things because that’s what happens when you have 8 kids between you. But when she left I couldn’t help but feel so refreshed. She encouraged me, shared wisdom, laughed with me and commiserated on the hard things of this mom life that we both live. After she left, I felt filled up and ready to take on the next thing.
Our church has a Bible reading plan and my husband pointed out these verses to me from our reading. I’ve been mulling them over ever since. In Philemon, Paul writes “I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.”
Philemon 1:4-7 NLT
Philemon is an extremely short book in the Bible- only one chapter, but it’s also extremely important. It is a letter from Paul written while he was in prison to Philemon, a man that became a Christian under Paul’s leadership and was now a leader of a church meeting in his own home. Philemon, like all the Roman patriarchs during this time period, owned slaves and one of them was Onesmius. Somewhere along the way, Onesimus had wronged Philemon and fled. He later met up with Paul, who shared Jesus with him, and became a believer. All of this put Paul in an awkward spot and so he writes to Philemon asking him to accept Onesimus back not as a slave, but as a brother in the faith; forgoing the punishment that was rightfully coming to Onesimus under Roman law and forgiving him and setting him free. This was completely unheard of at the time, but Paul reminds Philemon that the implications of the good news of Jesus are not just something that we work at inwardly, instead we express them outwardly in the same way Jesus did to us. In Jesus, we are now equal partners, coming to the cross on level ground.
The verses above are just the beginning of Paul’s letter. Paul is confident that Philemon will do the right thing and partner with him (and with Onesimus) in the gospel. He knows based on Philemon’s track record of faith and in light of the good things Jesus has done for him, he will extend that forgiveness and love to his former slave. It’s made me think critically about how I can this week put into action the generosity that comes from my faith and how I can show love and kindness that would refresh the hearts of God’s people, just like my friend did for me and just like Philemon did for Paul. The more I understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ, the more I am ready to share those things with others.
You might be wondering, what are the good things we have in Christ? The top thing that comes to mind is probably obvious; we have salvation from our sin and inevitable death, but even beyond that we have a new life right now in Jesus. At the church we attended when we lived in Louisville, KY, they always made two statements during baptisms. “Buried with Christ,” the pastor would say as the person went down in the water and “Raised to walk in newness of life,” as they came up out of the water. My tears always flowed when they said this because the sweet truth was such a reminder to me that God has given us new life right now in Jesus. We don’t have to wait for eternity to be new. We are new right now!
We have a completely new identity now and God produces His fruit in us through the Holy Spirit- it’s not anything we have to conjure up or work towards. He is doing the work as we abide in Him and walk in it! If you know Jesus, you are raised to walk in a whole new life- raised to walk in generosity, kindness- refreshing the hearts of God’s people as you walk through all the ups and downs of this life. My hope and prayer is that this encouragement to Philemon from Paul would be true of you and me! That we would, ”Be a fountain, not a drain.” But not just any kind of fountain, a fountain overflowing from all the good things we have Christ because He is a never- ending well!
If you don’t know Jesus, today is the day that you have the opportunity to walk in newness of life. Never again do you have to wonder if your life means something or if your good deeds are enough. The truth is we all fall drastically short of God’s standard. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, we all come to the cross on level ground where Jesus made a way for you to be right with God. He gives us not only salvation, but new life and purpose! I would beg you to trust him today to “raise you to walk in newness of life” so that you can come to know and experience all the good things we have in Christ!
(If you have any questions about what that looks like, we would love for you to email us and give you some more information.)