So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.
Have you ever witnessed the pay-it-forward movement? Or someone helping a stranger when they are down on their luck? A few years ago, I was at the grocery store, heading to a checkout lane, when I saw a woman profusely thanking another woman as she was checking out. The grateful woman had forgotten her wallet at home and didn’t have another way to pay. They were both smiling at each other, one woman happy to help and another woman happy to be helped in a time of need. I saw joy spread from the two women involved with the exchange to the faces of bystanders witnessing this wonderful act of kindness. I remember wondering what the unseen impact might be, the kindness witnessed here potentially affecting many more people at the grocery store. Feel-good stories like this are the result of someone deciding to sacrifice and care for another person as if they were family. I like to think there is joy in Heaven in moments like these, just like there is on Earth. Just as Jesus sacrificed for us, we should sacrifice for others.
In Philemon, Paul is basically making a giant pay-it-forward. As he instructs Philemon to forgive Onesimus for his wrongdoing, he’s willing to pay Philemon for the debt he incurred for his actions. This is no small sacrifice on Paul’s account! Paul is demonstrating to Philemon just how far we should consider going for our fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus.
If you put yourself in Philemon’s shoes, how would you react to such a letter? Someone you respect as a leader, as a friend, and as a partner comes to you with such a deep conviction of the need to forgive this brother in Christ that he is willing to pay for all the damages. That is a bold and deeply meaningful action. Paul is motivated entirely by the debt that was paid on his behalf on the cross–so much so that he’s willing to pay the debt of his dear friend. Paul knows that he will never be able to repay Jesus for his sacrifice (nor does he have to), but he sure can live by his example on this side of Heaven and encourage others to do the same.
Take some time to sit with God and recall the times you have sacrificed and where you are currently sacrificing in your life. What have others sacrificed for you? Pray and ask for strength and a humble heart to remember we are all partners and deserve to be treated as equals.
Find ways you can bring kindness and generosity to someone today. It could be as simple as buying your coworker their favorite coffee, dialing up an old friend to catch up, volunteering at Willow or a local non-profit, or sharing your faith with a stranger.