In our congregation, just as many of yours, follows something called a lectionary. It is a series of assigned readings for every Sunday in the church year. We use a three-year series, which tries to ensure that we hear a lot of different passages read in worship during the three-year cycle.
This past Sunday one of those assigned readings was the book of Philemon, which is only one chapter long. It was a letter from Paul to Philemon on behalf of a runaway slave named Onesimus. Philemon lived in Colossae. Paul was under house arrest in Rome when Onesimus met him and subsequently became a follower of Jesus. Paul was now sending him back to his master, with a plea that Philemon would receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ and treat him accordingly.
As I read through this lesson, which I had read dozens of times before, one verse jumped out at me in a way unlike any of my previous encounters with this little book. It was verse 6: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (NIV)
If you are like me (and probably most people), you are of the mindset that we share our faith in Jesus with other people for their benefit. After all, if we are already believers, we know Jesus died to pay for our sins and was raised for our justification. We know that we have forgiveness and life and salvation because of what he did for us. He took the punishment our sins deserved and carried them to the cross. Because he was our substitute, we do not have to pay for sin ourselves. Through faith in Jesus, we receive the benefit of all he did for us.
And we know that it is a present reality, not something we have to wait for some time in the future. We have this good news and want other people to have it as well. That is why we share our faith, for their benefit. That and because Jesus told us to do so throughout his teachings, especially in Matthew 28:19-20.
All of that is true and correct. However, Paul adds another dimension to why we are to be active in sharing our faith: it is for our own sake… so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. In the process of sharing your faith with others, you are reminded of the wonderful blessings you have because of all Jesus did for you through his life, death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God.
Ponder on that for a while. Let it sink in. Sharing your faith with others will enable you to grow in your own relationship with Jesus Christ as your savior. Just another example of God causing all things to work for the good of those who have come to faith in Jesus.
Michael Mattil is the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Denison. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.