“Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you…
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Philemon 1-7,25
Who would not cherish opening and reading such a greeting? Paul’s words to his beloved fellow worker wash over the reader with grace, lovingkindness, appreciation, and affection. He identifies himself as a prisoner, yet moves on quickly to place all attention on those he is holding in his heart. They have taken up special residence in his spirit, his physical discomfort notwithstanding. His opening words are meant for upbuilding and blessing his brothers and sisters in Christ and ministry.
How privileged we are as Christians to have beloved fellow workers in Christ’s kingdom, and it is too often we are at odds, or in a stew of complaint. Things are not exactly as we prefer, and people are not as we think they should be. We grouse and nitpick through sinner-tainted lenses, rather than count the blessings that come from mutual devotion to Christ, from the indescribable unity that is ours in the Spirit, and from the high calling to serve Him together. As fellow members of His body, we can either disrupt and drag down others, or each do his or her part to build up that body with encouragement and love. (1 Corinthians 12:4-27; Ephesians 4:1-7,15-16)
If we are not viewing our fellow kingdom workers with such benevolence, try extending grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ. Think on how the Lord has lavished us with these gifts, and dole out from His Spirit’s deposited storehouse. In the act of giving such to others, grace and peace multiply to bless both giver and recipient. (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2; Luke 6:38)
And are we praying for those with whom we serve? Remembering them with care and gratitude, naming the ways they have grown, helped, made a difference, and effectively produced fruit, evokes gladness of spirit and refreshment of attitude toward them. Are we taking the concentrated time to do so, and persevering in prayer until our hearts overflow?
From whom have we derived comfort and joy as we’ve sat under teaching or served side by side, and have we thanked them for it? And with whom are we fostering the same by loving them well as fellow workers? How do we intentionally lift spirits through spoken words, kind assistance, or tangible encouragement?
Father, this day, may I be bold to love and quick to thank those with whom You have me serving. Please cause us to grow together in faith and goodness, and so bring glory to You.