Feel refreshed by fortune elsewhere

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By Strauss de Jager

In the short and almost obscure letter of Paul to Philemon he declares, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Our normal instinct is to be blessed directly by our personal prosperity or success.

Amazingly, an elderly Paul writes from a state of unjust imprisonment, and with no thought of his own interests, finds cause to rejoice that Philemon was a blessing to the believers in his city. Following this affirmation and motion of confidence, he continues to make a carefully constructed and fervent plea to Philemon on behalf of his runaway slave, Onesimus, who was converted by Paul in prison.

He pleads with Philemon to forgive him, receive him back, not only as a rehabilitated inmate, but also as a brother in Christ, as he would have received Paul himself. He closes his plea requesting Philemon to “refresh my heart in Christ.” (v 20). Once again, Paul would be elated with joy and be rejuvenated, if master Philemon and his delinquent slave were reconciled, and indeed transcend their earthly social stratification with a new identity as fellow citizens of God’s kingdom, as fellow members in the family of God!

As the artist finds satisfaction in being a blessing to his or her audience, and often sacrifices own comforts, we too may daily experience the truth that there is indeed more pleasure in giving than in receiving.

Strauss de Jager,
NG Kerk

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