“Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ” (Philemon 20).
IN THE SHORT LETTER OF PAUL TO PHILEMON, PAUL MADE A BROTHER-TO-BROTHER REQUEST OF HIS FELLOW CHRISTIAN. Hoping the request would be favorably considered, Paul said, “Refresh my heart in Christ.” Today, let’s meditate on this aspect of becoming a Christian. Not only do we assume new responsibilities to the Lord, but we acquire a new connection to others who, like us, have obeyed the gospel. As we see with Paul and Philemon, we have the opportunity to “refresh” our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The concept of “refreshing” another person is helpful. Perhaps it goes without saying that we all need to be refreshed from time to time, but most of us probably underestimate the extent to which we can have this effect on others. By our words and deeds, we can energize those around us, breathing new life into them.
But Paul hoped that Philemon would refresh his heart “in Christ,” i.e., as a Christian. It is certainly possible for anyone, whether a Christian or not, to have a refreshing effect on other people, but in Jesus Christ this effect is deepened in significant ways. It is only in Christ that we have the ability to be refreshing in the ways that people most seriously need refreshment. But here is the point that all of us who are Christians need to ponder: we need to see being a Christian not only in terms of what we can get (being refreshed) but also in terms of what we can give (refreshing others).
When all is said and done, we will act in rightful love toward others only when we have a right relationship with God and think about His nature as we should. As someone has said, our “sociology” flows out of our “theology.” If we think there is no God at all, that will have an obvious impact on our relationships with other human beings. But even if we are believers, if our view of God is in conflict with God’s revelation of Himself in the Scriptures as a whole — for example, if it is skewed in the direction of either His judgment or His forgiveness — our relationships will be hampered by that imbalance. So here is a very practical reason for learning about God as He truly is: it is the truth about God that will enable us to be genuinely “refreshing” as Christians.
“There is no brotherhood of man without the fatherhood of God” (Henry Martyn Field).