Being a Christian is not easy. Anyone who tells you it is doesn’t know what they’re talking about. When Jesus came to this earth and began the process of sharing what it means to follow Him, His ideas were not well received by many, particularly the religious folks (Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.).
Think about it. When someone slaps you on the cheek, do you really want to turn to the side and offer them the other cheek to slap? When someone wants to take your shirt, do you really want to offer them your coat too? When someone takes advantage of you and says, “Walk another mile, even though you don’t want to…” well, that’s tough stuff. Jesus said that we must forgive 70 x 7. He said that we must deny ourselves daily and take up our cross. He said we must spend our time and money investing in His kingdom, not the world. Nope! I’ll be the first to admit that living the Christian life is not easy. In fact, it’s a supernatural journey that must be lived in surrender and submission to God through the guiding of the Holy Spirit and that’s easier said than done.
Paul would appeal to Philemon’s understanding of “doing the right thing.” Paul is going to appeal to the Christian love that he’s convinced Philemon is going to need to exhibit to forgive and take back a runaway slave, (Onesimus).
7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. 8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus.
Paul is in prison in Rome (under house arrest, chained to a Roman soldier) and Philemon knows this. As the letter arrives from Tychicus to him, Philemon surely got a report of the difficulty Paul was enduring. Philemon was free, but Paul was living in conditions that were extremely challenging. Imagine living your life today with someone attached to you with a six-foot chain, going everywhere you go (including the bathroom). Yikes!
Paul describes the fact that he’s an old man (see that in verse 9). Paul would be in his early 60’s at this point and yet he’s still trusting in the Lord’s provision and doing the Lord’s work. I’m so grateful for all of my older brothers and sisters who “keep on keeping on” even though their health is not what it once was! Thank you brothers and sisters in your 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond who continue to work for the kingdom, living for Jesus! You are my heroes!
Paul appeals to Philemon’s goodness and love and wants to encourage him to extend that same goodness and love to receive Onesimus back. The truth is, we aren’t sure what the circumstances were when Onesimus left. He could have stolen something from Philemon. He could have committed some other sort of heinous crime. We don’t know. But, we do know that he ran away and ultimately ended up in Rome, where he met Paul and most importantly, received Jesus as His Lord and Savior. And dear friend, when you receive Jesus that changes everything. When you know Him, you are truly regenerated from the inside out and you are literally born again to the point that you are sincerely a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Because of this transformation, you and I have the ability to do extraordinary things. We can do the things mentioned before. Yes…we can…
- Turn the other cheek
- Walk the second mile
- Do good to others
- Invest for the Kingdom
Paul implored Philemon to “do what is required.”
8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you…
You see, Paul could have commanded Philemon to take Onesimus back. How’s that? Because Paul is an Apostle, appointed by Jesus to establish churches and carry out the work on Jesus’ behalf. Therefore, because of Paul’s position, Philemon could have been ordered to take Onesimus back. But, Paul didn’t appeal to the “law,” instead he appealed to “love.” He said, “for love’s sake, I prefer to appeal to you.”
You know the same is perhaps true for you today. The Lord might be appealing to your heart and mind today “for love’s sake.” Perhaps He is appealing to you to “do what is required.” What is being required of you that’s hard? Is it literally to just simply put one foot in front of the other because you are old? Is it to forgive someone who has said some pretty despicable things to you or about you? Is it to turn the other cheek or walk the second mile?
Hey, it won’t be easy. It’s never easy to live the Christian life. Just ask Paul as you look at him trying to get a bit of privacy while he’s chained to a soldier. Just ask Jesus while He was hanging on the cross. But, that’s what Christians do. We do the hard things. We do what is required. Why? Because we love. We love like Jesus and we supernaturally allow His love to carry us to do what is required for love’s sake.