Reckless Love

“… receive Him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave – a beloved brother…” Philemon 15-16

Paul is writing a letter to Philemon about a servant named Onesimus. Philemon was a wealthy businessman in Colosse that Onesimus served. Onesimus either damaged or stole property from Philemon and fled to Rome. In Rome, Onesimus connected with Paul, who led him to Christ. Paul wrote to Philemon to ask him to forgive and restore Onesimus.

In verses 15 and 16 Paul pleads with Philemon to receive Onesimus. The word, receive, in this context means, “to receive in full, to have sufficiency.” This word was commonly used on business receipts to mean, “paid in full.” No payment or service was expected to follow the close of the transaction. Therefore, Paul asks Philemon to receive Onesimus as if he no longer owed him, but to receive him with mercy and forgiveness. Paul asked that he would not only receive him back as a worker, but also now as a Christian brother.

The God-kind of love will show complete, not partial, acceptance of the person coming towards them with a repentant heart. Mercy accepts a penitent person wholeheartedly, even with their imperfections. The qualification for acceptance isn’t flawlessness, but a repentant heart. We see this in the story of the father and the prodigal son in Luke 15. When the son returned with a penitent heart, the father’s acceptance brought full restoration immediately, with no hesitation. It went beyond the request to be positioned as an employee to the father receiving his son back into the family. The father’s acceptance was full, complete and without reservation.

When we see the humility and change of behavior in the penitent heart, the God-kind of love will proceed to trust without holding back. It doesn’t give a small portion of love, but a full, extravagant love. God’s love will abandon caution; it’s reckless, fearless. God’s love is bold, courageous, undaunted. The result is restoration, nearness. The reward is for the mercy of God to be seen and shared.

Application: If there is pride, a haughty demand for forgiveness, unchanged behavior, a critical or judgmental attitude toward those they have betrayed – then use caution. The prodigal’s attitude was “I owe you,” not “you owe me.” Otherwise, look to your heart, asking God to give discernment. Trust God and help your brother or sister to be restored spiritually, emotionally, mentally and in any other way he or she may have damaged himself or herself. Celebrate their return home!

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