Philemon 1–3 (ESV) – 1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul opens his letter to Philemon by identifying himself as “a prisoner for Christ Jesus”. This could be understood in two ways. Paul is a literal prisoner in Rome due to his preaching ministry. Also, Paul has been taken captive by the message of the gospel and has given his life to Jesus Christ. He likely has both in mind, using his literal imprisonment to emphasize his commitment to the gospel. Paul surrendered his freedoms, made great sacrifices, and suffered in many ways because of his love for Christ. Making mention of this in the opening of this letter was going to be important because Paul was going to ask Philemon to make sacrifices of his own.
The Christian life is one of sacrifice. As we follow our Lord, we are called to give up personal freedoms, desires, and luxuries all for the sake of loving Christ and loving others. If every decision we make is done so with the mindset of “How will this benefit me?”, we are living no differently than the world. However, we have been called not to seek our own benefit, but to ask “How can I glorify Christ?” and “How can I show love for others?”. The Christian life is marked by love and sacrifice because that is what Jesus did for us.
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