I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. Philemon 13 (EHV).
Have you considered that you have a responsibility to help others who are in trouble? Seriously. This isn’t a guilt-thing; I’m not writing this to guilt-motivate you. No, you have a duty, a responsibility, a commitment (whether you know it or not) to help other people who are suffering. It’s your job; it’s your burden; it’s your pleasure. Those other people: even if you don’t know you have a responsibility to help someone, they know. They know if you don’t.
But don’t lose sight of something said in that last paragraph: it’s your pleasure. Helping someone else doesn’t have to be a toilsome thing. It’s only our perspective that would make it seem as if this would be a burden.
Indeed, Paul knew he needed help. In ancient Roman prisons, you were on your own. You were bound in prison only if you were potentially guilty of a high crime because Roman justice for all other crimes, even capital crimes, was usually swift. I learned (from a Calvary Chapel podcast) that Roman justice usually involved the verdicts of not guilty or guilty, and if you were guilty you were either fined, enslaved, banished, or executed. There were very few long-term prison sentences allowed. Paul was in prison awaiting his appeal to Rome (as a Roman citizen) for the false charges levied against him by the Jews.
While in confinement, he needed help. Roman prisons – even house arrest – provided no food, medical care, clothing, or even things to sleep on. If someone didn’t provide for you, you went without or quickly died. Paul would have died as his confinement lasted for months had people like Onesimus, Philemon’s escaped slave, not cared for him.
Tell me: is there someone in your orbit who needs help that you can provide? Yes, we can (and should) help strangers we meet on the street. You judge by your own conscience how much God tells you to help them. Yet most of us also have other people in our lives who need our help, either actively or passively. Some people we can help; others are best left to prayer. But we should help wherever we can, whenever we can. The couple who’s divorcing; the lonely kid in the lunchroom; the lost friend who needs your friendship: we could go on forever.
And that’s the key: to go on forever. God wants us to go on with him forever, and He sends us each other to help that process along here. It’s our responsibility to do our best with it, to help others in need, to follow where Jesus is leading and happily so.
For further reading: Acts 21:33, Philemon 14
Lord, show me today where I can help someone!