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Loaned Not Owned

Philemon 1:12-14
I am sending him--who is my very heart--back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favour you do will be spontaneous and not forced. (NIV)

Paul's love for those who helped him was big enough to let them go! So he sent Onesimus, the
runaway servant, back to Philemon his master in Collosae. Since believing in Jesus, Onesimus had developed a truly serving heart. He had become very useful to Paul (as Philemon had at some time): but the Apostle knew that Onesimus did not belong to him. He knew that he could not keep for himself anything (or anybody) that did not belong to him.

Even though Paul and Philemon were brothers in Christ, Paul did not want to presume that he had the right to anything which was not freely given to him. Onesimus had only been loaned to Paul by Jesus. So at the first opportunity it was right for him to go back to his master's home and to his master's service. Perhaps the key to Paul's attitude was that he loved him dearly calling him "my very own heart": true love is generous, and able to let go.

The family of Christ needs to keep relearning this lesson. Although we belong together, we do not own one another or their possessions or money. We have no rights over each other except by asking permission, and even that must be freely given. That applies especially where one believer works for another either in the church or the workplace. And so we must be careful not to abuse the serving nature of those who give their lives to honour the Lord.

Dear God and Father of all. Thank You for the privilege of being part of Your family. Thank You too for my brothers and sisters, and especially those who I work alongside. Please forgive me when I forget that their loyal service is not my right, but that they have been loaned by You. Help me to honour those who work under me, as well as those to whom I am responsible; knowing that we all have only one Master in Heaven. May You be pleased by the way we work together, so that You will have the glory from the work we do here on earth. In Jesus' Name. Amen
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© Dr Paul Adams