Love that refreshes

Folks, on Sunday we started our series on forgiveness by looking at the story of Philemon. It’s a tiny book….25 verses long, near the back of the New Testament, and on first reading through you might well think ‘what’s this got to say to us today?’

We thought about it in terms of forgiveness and reconciliation…Paul urging…pleading for Philemon to extend forgiveness to, and then to be reconciled with, Onesimus. I’m not going to go back over that story…if you’re curious, listen online.

I want to focus in on vv4-7, and pause to consider Philemon…in particularly, one thing that Paul notices about him.

Here are the verses…

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.  I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

I don’t know about you, but I read these verses and I think: what a great portrait of Philemon! He seems like a good guy…a godly guy…winsome…faithful. 

And do you see the thing Paul is thankful for? It’s Philemon’s faith in Jesus and his love for fellow Christians. Philemon, it seems, has a deep-rooted love for Jesus…an obedience…which overflows into love for God’s people all around him. And jump down to the last verse, because he picks up again on Philemon’s love….see what he says….Philemon’s love has refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. The word used for “refreshed” is apparently a military term. As soldiers would rest on a long march and feel refreshed, Paul recognises that Philemon loves others in such a way that he spurs them on in their faith, encouraging them onwards as they follow Jesus. We don’t know how Philemon does this…whether it’s verbal exhortation or practically coming alongside…but however…it’s a beautiful picture isn’t it? – Philemon loves the church in Colossae in a way that is impacting people’s lives.

And I guess, I want that to sink in to us…each of us…individually and collectively. How do we love the fellow Jesus-followers around us? How do we invest in them? How do we refresh them? How do we spur them on? Is there anyone around you who you know to be in need or refreshment? If so, how are you going to love them?

s edge