I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. Philemon 19 (EHV).
“I’m writing this in my own hand” is a strange thing to say in a friendly letter, but Paul says it anyway. It was a way of personally verifying that the letter was, in fact, written by him. If you think about it, in the first century, there probably wouldn’t have been any other way to say or do something, publicly and in writing, that would verify in such a way. Paul often dictated his letters, but on this, most likely because he was asking such an unusual thing, he wanted personal authenticity.
Yet the most amazing thing about this verse is the second sentence. “You owe me your very self” is a massive boast. Most likely it goes back to when Philemon became a believer. Biblehub reminds us that Philemon was a wealthy man whereas Paul was the person in need. Yet in this extraordinary book it is Paul who assumes the upper hand, doing so on moral and spiritual (rather than financial) grounds. It makes sense, then , since Paul was the person who first brought the world of Christ to Philemon, Paul would make such a claim as “you owe me your life.”
I suppose that desperate times call for desperate measures.
Can you make that boast to anyone? Are you the Apostle Paul to someone’s spiritual Philemon? People are always saying that we don’t always know the effect we have on other people. We should live out our lives genuinely, not in two-faced or double-minded ways, so that people see Christ when they see us. A friend of mine said (of his seminary years) that he and his fellow students often held second jobs when they were putting themselves through seminary. Many of them worked in construction and blue collar trades. One of his professors reminded them that they should live their lives in their second jobs so as to not make it difficult to believe they were studying to be pastors in their primary jobs. Walk the walk and talk the talk because others are watching.
If we’re believers, it should show because what we say and do affects others. We may just be the one person in someone’s life who brings them to Christ, who shares Jesus in such a way that it’s life-changing for them. For me, that person was my uncle. And my pastor-friend that I mentioned above (any of my pastor friends, actually). And my aunt, who reminded me in a dark time, to keep faith and keep writing these blogs. I owe them my very life, both in the spiritual and even physical senses. I was once desperate too even when I didn’t know it.
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 16:21, Philemon 20
Lord Jesus, teach me again today to live in ways that show off my faith in You. Others are watching.