Philemon 1:17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.
The concept of taking on the burden of another person is common in Scripture. It’s called identification and intercession.
How would you receive Jesus Christ into your house? This is a fascinating part of the culture of the New Testament. We are told that the way we treat each other, is the way we are treating Jesus Christ. He said that the way you receive Him is the way you have received His Father.
John 5:23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. He also said the way we treat the poor is the way we have treated Him, the way we treat prisoners and sick people is the way we have treated Him.
In Luke 10 Jesus talks about the Good Samaritan.
A man was mugged, beaten, and left half dead on the roadside. A religious person came and passed by on the other side. A Minister came and passed by on the other side of the road, but then a Samaritan came by and set about helping the man. This is like saying, the non Christian helped the man, the drunk, the party animal, the crooked developer, the gay person, the person who votes for what you think is wrong. This is what a Samaritan was, a despised person. This story shows us some of what we are called to when we are called to love:
1. Love Is Actioned
Jesus was saying that love is not love unless it’s actioned.
Being religious and talking about love only increases cynicism. Loving other people needs to be a way of life for all of us. Love is not just ‘feeling for others’. It’s doing something that will help, bless, deliver, relieve those we can reach out to regardless of the cost to us.
People anywhere near the church, anywhere near believers or followers of Christ should experience love above all other things. How’s it feel for people when they meet you? Do you think they feel loved or hated, accepted or spurned, preached to or cared for? No-one is beyond loving with some act of kindness. Love isn’t deserved, otherwise it isn’t given. Love can only be given.
2. Love Is Kind
Kindness is more powerful than miracles in breaking open the heart. In fact the only way the heart is conquered, is through love. The only way the enmity against God, His church and His people can be broken is through the kindness of God.
My first encounter with church and Christians was through a woman named May Hancock. She sat with us in church and when the offering came by I had no money on me. She gave me 20 cents for the offering. That small act of kindness convinced me these people were real. It was part of the process that opened my heart.
Sometimes we think the dramatic, the spectacular will win people to Christ, but it is love than succeeds every time.
3. Love Is Costly.
Act 20:34-35 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'
He was able to say to Philemon, ‘Whatever the runaway slave has stolen from you, whatever he owes you put that on my account.’
How many of us could say that? It’s the same words the Samaritan said to the Inn Keeper. Whatever it costs, send me the bill. This apparently is what a Christian is, by Jesus own definition when he was asked what being a neighbour to our world is. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to the world around us.
The church is the hands of God and our hands are not meant to be closed. They are meant to be full and they are meant to be open. The man on the roadside was half dead. He was half alive. Each of us are only half alive until we are born again. We may be physically alive but until we are born again we are spiritually dead. The Samaritan brought the half dead man to church. He didn’t send him. He got personally involved. He put the man in his car and drove him to church where there was wine and oil to bring healing and recovery. He was willing to pay whatever it cost to bring recovery to the man.
What value do we place on people coming to Christ? What price would we pay for them? Jesus paid with His life. He got as personally involved as it is possible to do so.
Finally, the greatest point of this story in Philemon is that Jesus has paid for us. All that we owed God but had no way of paying, Jesus says, ‘I’ve got that. You’re covered’.
Our sins demanded our death. We have all done wrong and trespassed against the Father. However, God did not want us to not find access to heaven. He wanted fellowship with us in eternity. The only way that could happen was through the sacrifice of someone who would be a pure, perfect sacrifice untainted with the contaminated blood of Adam flowing in their veins. One born of God through a virgin. Jesus Himself was crucified for a purpose, not just as a wrongfully accused criminal. He died as a sacrifice for our sins, so we could be forgiven, cleansed and made right with God.
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