12 I’m sending him back to you, which is like sending you my own heart. 13 I considered keeping him with me so that he might serve me in your place during my time in prison because of the gospel. 14 However, I didn’t want to do anything without your consent so that your act of kindness would occur willingly and not under pressure. – Philemon 1:12-14
Sometimes I’ve been asked to be a “reference” for someone. Usually, this involves the other person’s attempt to get a job. A few times, I’ve even been called by these companies and asked questions about this perspective employee. One interview asked, “Would you trust this person with your most valuable possession?”
It’s a fun and thought-provoking question. Would I trust this person I’m talking about with something that truly has value for me? (By the way, the answer for that question was “yes” and the person did get the job!)
That seems to be where Paul starts in making his appeal to Philemon (the master) on behalf of Onesimus (the servant who ran away). Paul puts it all on the line and links his most valuable possession to Onesimus. I’m sending him back to you and it’s like I’m sending you my heart.
And when so much of value is on the line, Paul appeals to Philemon to act because he wants to – out of his own heart! Paul frames Onesimus (whose name means “useful”) as having great value in his work of sharing the Gospel, and he wants Philemon to make a response out of love.
I sometimes feel awkward when I’m given an extravagant gift. I feel as if I’m not worthy. I feel as if there’s no way that I could reciprocate. And then I start to realize that the other person is giving me this gift out of love, because they want to, because it is something that they feel. When I open my hand and accept that gift, I’m, in love, honoring the love of the one who gave this to me.
Prayer: God, give us the ability to trust others with our greatest possessions – our hearts of love. Help us to respond in love when others share that gift with us. Amen.