#1 - Christian Character

Friday 1 Sep, 2023

Great things come in small packages. You’ve probably heard that before; I remember saying it once as a child when someone called me short. Some of life’s most life-changing moments come in small things. An engagement ring in a small box, a gift through the post, a job contract folded in an envelope. In our current stage of life, I would probably say that babies come packaged up quite small but are definitely life-altering.

Over the next three instalments of the Pastor’s Pen articles we’re going to be diving into one of the smallest books in the Bible, Philemon. Only 25 verses long, this letter is a bit like a post card to a close friend. Nevertheless, Paul still expected it to be read to the whole church (Philemon 2). So what can we learn from it? I hope that over the next three months we can learn about 3 marks of a Christian from Philemon.

Paul writes to Philemon, a wealthy man who was converted under Paul’s ministry and who hosts a house church in his home. He was wealthy enough to have slaves, one of them called Onesimus. At one point Onesimus ran away and had most likely taken something, either possessions or money, with him (v15 and v18). Onesimus flees to Rome, the most populated city in the world at that time in order to hide. But God had a different plan.

Onesimus met Paul and became a Christian, his life is now completely different, so Paul writes to Philemon to ask a dear friend and fellow worker (v1) to reconcile with Onesimus and welcome him back with open arms.

How can Paul make such a bold request? How can Paul ask Philemon to take a thief back into his home as a brother? Paul can ask this of Philemon because he is confident that Philemon will listen and do the right thing (v21).

Paul can only know that Philemon will do the right thing because Paul knows that Philemon is a man of godly character who wants to do the will of God and glorify Him. What a testimony to Philemon’s life, that Paul can be confident that he will make the right decision with Onesimus because of Philemon’s godly character.

As we think about our own lives and our own Christian witness, are we a people known for our godly character? Could people say with confidence that we will respond to situation in a right way because of our faith in Jesus?

Our lives should not be shaped by the circumstances that come our way, but by our Saviour who has given us eternal life through His death and resurrection. Our lives, the things we do, the way we respond to situations, the way we talk and how we interact with others should be a direct result of our faith in Jesus.

My prayer is that in my life, and in each of our lives as a church family, we would be known for our Christian character, not just so that we’re seen as good people, but so that we have opportunities to always point people to Jesus through our actions and our words. We should be a people who reflect Jesus, Christians should be people who are known for our Christian character. One of the ways we can do that, as Philemon will do, is to be examples to the watching world of the reconciliation that is possible as Jesus changes lives and helps us forgive others.