As we have walked through the book of Philemon during our current sermon series, “Faith For More”, the Lord has shown me so much about what it looks like to sink roots deep into the truth of the Gospel, the good fruit those roots bring about, and the kind of life that bears fruit in every season. In the first week of the series we learned how a rootedness in the Gospel gives deep joy, comfort, and strength for hard times (Check out week 1 sermon here and read Kyle's blog post here). Last Sunday as we went through Philemon 1:8-22, Zach shared how the Gospel also brings the fruit of freedom.
The Fruit of Freedom.
As I went back through the scripture again during my time with the Lord, one verse in particular stood out to me—Philemon 1:14. Referencing Onesimus, Paul says “…But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion, but of your own accord.” I was so struck by this as it immediately reminded me of another piece of scripture, John 10:17-18. In that passage, Jesus says, “ For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Now, normally when I think of Jesus dying on the cross for me I tend to focus on His love in light of my sinfulness and how little I deserve it. How He died for the ungodly and chose to lavish His love upon us. I think of how costly His love is—a love so strong that He was willing to give up His life for us. But rarely do I think of how FREE His love is, but that is exactly what Jesus is telling us here! He was never forced and never constrained, but rather out of knowing the Father’s heart He embraced the cross for our sake because He loves us. When Jesus says “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down on My own accord” what He is really saying is, “My love is free” and love that is free brings freedom.
Love that is free brings freedom.
This prayer in Ephesians describes the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love for us—that it is deep and wide and high and long beyond our comprehension, BUT even more so it is free. So often it seems that (consciously or not) we fall into the trap of believing His love comes with a price tag and that we owe Him something, fooling ourselves that we could ever afford a love like His. Paul pushes that all aside and reminds us of just how free Jesus' love really is. He lifts the weight and pressure of striving to earn His affection off of our backs and onto His own, affirming His authority in His choice to love us freely. He invites us to enjoy the freedom of His love. A love so freely given brings the freedom that our souls long for, a freedom that can’t be fabricated by anything this world offers. This freely given love contains the very power that was able to raise Jesus from the dead.
Free to Love Freely.
This is exactly the kind of Gospel love we see in Philemon, as Paul challenges Philemon to respond to the love that was freely given to Him in Christ by receiving his former slave Onesimus as a brother. It is a love that not only brings freedom into our lives, but also one that breeds freedom in others. Being loved by and rooted in a love that is free allows us to be a people who extend that same love to others. It allows us to forgive and reconcile, to extend grace and mercy, and to approach our lives and His throne with boldness.