17 Do you think of me as a believer who works together with you? Then welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me. 18 Has he done anything wrong to you? Does he owe you anything? Then charge it to me. 19 I’ll pay it back. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I won’t even mention that you owe me your life. 20 My brother, we both belong to the Lord. So I wish I could receive some benefit from you. Renew my heart. We know that Christ is the one who really renews it. 21 I’m sure you will obey. So I’m writing to you. I know you will do even more than I ask. 22 There is one more thing. Have a guest room ready for me. I hope I can return to all of you in answer to your prayers. 23 Epaphras sends you greetings. Together with me, he is a prisoner because of Christ Jesus. 24 Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke work together with me. They also send you greetings. 25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
It seems a strange and awkward statement from Paul; “I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord…” How many times do I say this in my friendships? Not often, if at all. “I want some benefit from you, X”
It is interesting to note the benefit Paul seeks is the benefit for someone else – Paul’s not looking for personal benefit, but for benefit and welcome for another.
It’s a juxtaposition – I want to benefit from you; my benefit would be another man’s benefiting from your kindness, and any costs this incurs for you, charge to my account.
Paul is being thoroughly selfless on behalf of someone else, and he’s putting at risk his relationship with Philemon (Philemon may choose to ignore or reject this costly request) and he’s incurring cost, in advance, to himself (I’ll pay his debts).
Do I love people like this? Do I risk and incur costs in my relationships like this? Do I work for the restoration of others who have made mistakes and poor judgements, like this?
This, to me, is Christ-like kindness in relationships. And I’ve got a ways to go.
Lord, help me be far slower to judge and discount, or grumble and complain, and instead consider what practical kindnesses and helps I can offer to those I have relationship with when restoration is needed by them such that they can be redeemed in community. Amen.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh