Loaned Not Owned
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.
© Dr Paul Adams