So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.
Philemon v.17 (ESV)
Receive him. RECEIVE him. RECEIVE HIM!
Recently I heard Alistair Begg, the senior pastor of Cleveland’s Parkside Church, teach from the book of Philemon. He landed on verse 17 and my heart was suddenly warmed by his words—a familiar experience when the Holy Spirit wants to get my attention.
The book of Philemon is a Prison Epistle (letter written while in prison), which Paul wrote circa 61 A.D. The key personalities of Philemon are Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. It was written to Philemon as a plea to request forgiveness for his runaway servant Onesimus, who was a new believer in Jesus Christ.
Onesimus had run away and traveled to Rome where he met Paul. While there, Onesimus surrendered his life to Christ. Philemon, under Roman law, could execute his slave for fleeing however, Paul pleads with Philemon to receive his servant. Then Paul goes one step further and asks Philemon not only to receive his slave, but also to receive him as a brother in Christ and to overlook his faults and errors. “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (vs. 15-16).
The most amazing news of the gospel is not that I can receive Jesus into my life but that He has received me into His! Can I do any less for him than He has done for me? Am I receiving those around me? Am I receiving them not just with lip service but down to the bone? Am I receiving them with the same degree of love and appreciation I would exhibit towards Paul?
Onesimus is mentioned again at the end of the book of Colossians as a faithful and beloved brother. His life was spared because he was received and embraced! Lord, help me play my part in Your great story. Help me truly receive!