Vol. 8-39 – 09-24-2023 – Just Sayin’
The One-page Book
I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. –Philemon 12-14
This is a one-page letter (book, epistle). There are no chapter numbers. Books in our Bibles never had chapter or verse numbers in their beginning. Amazing they could find anything. But they could. We have printed Bibles with boldface names, chapters, and verses. We have indexes. Concordances. Maps. Illustrations. Background information. Ribbons to mark our places. iPads, Kindles, iPhones, and various other devices. Laptops. Next, we will have one of those computer chip thingies implanted in our head that projects all that stuff to our mind—including the version the preacher is delivering his sermon from.
They memorized the Scriptures.
The gist of the letter deals with confronting a person that is doing something wrong and approaching the person being harmed with an opportunity to do right in front of our Savior, Jesus, the Christ. Have you ever been in that predicament?
Our puzzle is in our imaginations on how our words (letters, in this instance) will be received. Paul is not the cause of this situation. He is involved due to the choices of the one at fault. He also wants to preserve the relationship of the one being harmed and to protect his testimony to the community as well.
So, give yourself a couple of minutes to contemplate how you would handle this.
. . . Time is up.
Is this such an uncommon thing? Actually, it is a great opportunity. Paul writes this letter from prison. I do not know of anyone that receives this blog that spent much time behind a locked door in their life. You do not have to email me and say, “you didn’t know?” Onesimus was Philemon’s slave. He ran off. Onesimus, the slave, had met Paul. Remember, God never crosses our paths with someone by accident. So, Paul led Onesimus to Christ. Paul is like that. What are we like?
Paul describes Onesimus as being like a son while Paul was in chains. Not fun to be incarcerated in that manner. Onesimus served Paul out of love and respect for Paul leading him to Christ. Paul knew that Onesimus needed to return to Philemon, the rightful owner.
So, with his gentleness and respect (he was not always like this), Paul’s letter reaches Philemon. Note the value of Onesimus he expresses. Paul would have liked to keep him. His letter is carefully written.
He tells Philemon how he regularly prays for him. He thanks him for his love of believers. Tells him how he is encouraged by his faith. How the Lord has given him joy as he serves the Lord’s people. Paul affirms Philemon. He let Philemon know that he trusts him to make a godly decision.
Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. –Philemon 21.
It’s Who You Know
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. –Hebrews 4:15-16
When I managed a large retail store, a man who was a regional vice president for a power company befriended me. At Christmas time each year, he would connect with me to see if could get the latest fad item. I could and did. Sometimes it is who you know.
Then I had a need. I called my friend and asked if he could help. I needed natural gas on our street. I wanted to replace my oil-fired heating system with energy that was cleaner and less expensive to operate. The very next week, gas was piped onto our street. I also purchased our new furnace at zero percent interest through that energy company. The day the gas was installed on our street, the furnace was installed. It is who you know.
I had a young man who worked for me; married with several children. He bought an old farm (small), with an old house. He was handy. I offered him my old oil-fired furnace and oil tank. The tank was almost full. He came by and pumped it out, took the furnace/tank to his farmhouse, and installed it ready to go before the heating season. So, he was using two oil-fired furnaces. The oil kept his house warm for three months. It is also who you know that needs some help.
That young man became my top assistant manager before I left that store.
It is interesting how our God cares for the needs of people. In a previous blog, I mentioned a preacher/evangelist who said that blessings are not always for us, but for another. The question he was asking was: when you get a blessing, who are you going to use it for?
Did you notice when I put those two verses at the beginning of this section that I left out a word? I did. Intentionally. The word is for, or therefore. My Greek professor always told his students that when they see this word, they better pause and discover what it is there for.
The Scriptures are quite consistent (as is God). The words that lead to God’s teachings are always intentional. They make us stop. Pay attention. There is something we need to learn. So, the writer (Paul, I think) says you need to know this . . .
And more importantly, the writer says that we need to give attention because it’s who we know that is important.
Heard commonly in our neck of the woods is a Southern saying: I’m just sayin’. I have not done research to find the etymology of that phrase. But I know it is from the South. Just like when someone asks how ya’ doin’. The response is, fair to middlin’. That response comes from the cotton raisin’ days. When they took the cotton to the mill, the attendant would take a few balls of cotton from various parts of the wagon and stretch them. It determined how much they would offer the cotton farmer. Fair to middlin’ was average. On most days I am doin’ fair to middlin’.
Paul did not do an average letter. He was intentional. His letter would have a great effect on Onesimus, and Philemon.
Did you know that letters you write can have a great effect with regard to one’s faith; how it gets used? There are opportunities you will have to encourage others to do what is right under the Lord of our lives. Don’t miss the opportunity.
How are you doin’ writing letters that request someone to do as the Lord leads? Just fair to middlin’? I’m just sayin’.