Philemon Day 11 Partnership In Christ
February 27, 2023
When we talk of partnership from the perspective of the secular world, it is easy to focus on commerce. Partnership is often seen in the context of a relationship between people doing business together, bound by a legal agreement.
Yet partners in Christ are bound together by more than a mere agreement enforceable by law. We are bound by the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ. Through our faith in Him, we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (Ephesian 1:13)
We have been “called to one hope [. . .] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
While a partnership in commerce can be terminated, the one in Christ can never be revoked. His blood has brought us together, and we are now members of God’s household, bonded in His love.
In consideration of this relationship between believers in Christ, today’s passage in Philemon reveals the Apostle Paul advocating reconciliation between Philemon and his estranged slave, Onesimus. Paul says,
“So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would me.” (Philemon 1:17)
By implication, Paul is saying Philemon should consider Onesimus as a brother, as Paul does. Though Onesimus was once Philemon’s fugitive slave, now as a believer in Christ they share a common hope. By dropping all charges against Onesimus, it would prove Philemon regarded Paul, as well as Onesimus, as fellow partners in Christ.
Scholars believe Onesimus had run away from his master, Philemon, and encountered Paul in Rome. Having converted him to Christ, Paul finds it expedient to reconcile Onesimus with his master because unity is absolutely essential within the Body of Christ. (John 17:21) As the one who introduced both of them to Christ, Paul pleads with Philemon to forgive whatever wrong or debts he might hold against Onesimus. He directs Philemon to charge to his account anything Onesimus owes, and Paul would provide repayment. As he contends on Onesimus’ behalf, Paul reminds Philemon, “you owe me even your very self.” (Philemon 19)
Paul displays a perfect example of the unity Christ prayed should exist among His believers. As a spiritual father to Philemon, he does not take advantage of his position, but rather pleads with him and calls him a partner, just as Christ no longer calls us slaves, but His own brothers! (John 15:15) Furthermore, he assumes the position of Onesimus before Philemon, assuming any debt charged against Onesimus.
In this interaction, Paul is a living example of Christ; just as Christ has forgiven Philemon’s debt to sin, Paul assumes Onesimus’ debt and urges Philemon to extend forgiveness. Both forgiven and restored, they can maintain the unity of purpose they have in Christ.
As humans, we wrong each other because of our sinful natures. The Scripture requires us to seek reconciliation when offense happens, in order to preserve unity within the Church of Christ. (Matthew 5:23-26) As Scripture says, two cannot walk together unless they agree. (Amos 3:3) Reconciliation can only take place when there is forgiveness; therefore, Paul urged Philemon to forgive Onesimus.
But sometimes offences are so grievous, or our offenders fail to show remorse, that we find it difficult to forgive. However, if we are to remain united, the only way forward is through forgiveness and reconciliation.
We cannot claim to be walking with Christ
if we are walking apart from each other.
As painful the offence or attitude of our offender may be, we must make deliberate effort to forgive, and pursue reconciliation. Knowing offences can be painful and humiliating, Paul says, “[Bear] with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace[.]” (Ephesians 4:2-3)
If we truly see each other as partners in Christ,
as fellow sisters in the household of God,
then we must make sacrifices to keep that partnership.
When it comes to offences we must forgive, not out of affection for our offender, but rather affection for Christ as we look to Him as our advocate. Christ did not consider our sinfulness as a barrier to dying for us; rather out of His limitless love, He died for our sins.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in our trespasses.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
If we are to maintain unity in our families and the Church at large, we must be willing to forgive and pursue reconciliation, just as Christ has forgiven and reconciled us.
Philemon Day 12
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