TD Jakes - The Love Letter
Philemon has no real doctrine or value, it does not set up the order of the church, it doesn't deal with deacons, or elders. It doesn't deal with immoralities and things like that. It doesn't deal with things that have been profitable to preach, it's just a simple, quick letter, written by the shaky hand, the trembling hand of an old man who resists arthritis long enough to pen a few words, because he thought it was important to stand in a position, and officiate for this runaway slave. The Bible is unclear as to how a guy like Onesimus would run into Paul seeing that Paul is a prisoner.
Now, I wanna set this up for a minute. You got a prisoner who is incarcerated outwardly, but free inwardly, writing to a slave owner, trying to get the slave owner to receive a runaway slave. Each man is, in some way, incarcerated, and each man is, in some way, liberated. Paul is bound on the outside, but he's free on the inside, and he's writing to Philemon to say, "Onesimus, by all rights, is your slave. You paid the price for him. He didn't treat you good, he didn't serve out his time, he ran away, but I want you to receive him back, because he ran away from you, but ran into me. And, in the process of him running into me, I converted him, and Onesimus, who was your slave, is now my son. Now, Philemon, this puts you in a dilemma, because if Onesimus is my son, then he is your brother, and if he is your brother, he can't be your slave".
Hallelujah, touch somebody and say, "Onesimus is a runaway slave". Yeah, you know what it is to be a runaway slave. You're runnin' away from somethin' and can't deal with it anymore, and you might not admit it, but all of us in here have been a runaway. Oh, no, no, no, no, don't get ethnic on me. You don't have to be black to be a runaway slave. Any time you're runnin' away from how you have been defined, any time you're runnin' away from how folks saw you, any time you're runnin' away from the limited perspective people had on your life, any time you refuse to be bound, and you gotta get away from a trap, you've been a runaway slave, been on the run. Some of y'all runnin' right now, runnin' from the limited way people view you, runnin' from your past, runnin' from your background, runnin' from who you used to be, runnin' from what people think about you. Some of you are on the run right now.
Onesimus was a runaway slave, and he ran up on Paul and got liberated, now he is liberated on the inside, but he's still on the run on the outside. And if you're a runaway slave, you lived in danger of being destroyed. Paul, who can't get out of prison, is writing a letter so that somebody who is out can be free. Some theologians suggest that the book of Philemon is only included in the canonical Scriptures, because the book of Philemon became a work that Onesimus includes, because Onesimus becomes a penman for the Apostle Paul, and becomes useful. Others suggest that it goes even deeper than that, that Philemon becomes an apostle, and does a great work, and Onesimus ends up pastoring Timothy's old church, and becomes the bishop over the church at Ephesus, and he started out a slave.
I want you to understand this morning that it doesn't matter where you start, it matters where you finish. You might not had a real good start, but that don't mean you can't have a happy ending. That's what I love about a good ol' love story, is that it always has a happy ending. I wanna talk to somebody who had a rough start, but you expect a happy ending. I wanna send you this little love letter. You didn't start so well, baby, but you're gone end good. You had a rough and rocky start, but you're gone have a long and happy ending. "He that had began a good work in you shall perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ". I wanna send you a love letter, Onesimus, to say your runnin' days are over.
Touch your neighbor and say, "You've been on the run too long". You gone miss the opportunities in front of you runnin' from the pain of the past behind you. And Paul said I'm writin' this love letter so Onesimus doesn't have to run anymore. Touch somebody and say, "Stop runnin' and face the thing you're afraid of". Stop runnin' and stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. Stop runnin' so you can unlock your destiny, and stop runnin' from your history. Stop running! Onesimus, you are useful in the kingdom. Onesimus, God has a plan for your life. Onesimus, God did intend for you to be in Philemon's life, but not as his slave, as his brother, and so he gave you the same spiritual father so that Paul could intercede, because love will always intercede.
The thing about love is, when you love two people who don't like each other, it puts you in an uncomfortable situation. I'm gonna get in your business a little bit. Every man who's ever stood in between your mama and your wife... uh-oh, you understand what it's like to be Paul, because you love mama and you love Helen, but Helen and mama don't love... Ooh, I lost half the church, Jesus. Yeah, yeah, you thought you was Onesimus, but when you go home you have to act like Paul and say, "Mama, you know how Helen is". And then you'd have to tell Helen, "You know my mama". It's hard when you're stuck.
Oh, you ought to see how funny the men look. They're looking at their wife out of the corner of their eye. They can't say nothing, but they're gonna talk this message over in the car, 'cause they're gonna say, "Baby, I feel like Paul writing to Onesimus trying to get you and mama to get along. I love both of you". But when you love two people who don't love each other, it puts you in a terrible predicament, caught between two lovers. Uh-huh. Oh, my God. Run off the DVDs. The sales just went up. The thing about love is what you want when you love two people who don't love each other. You long for them to love each other, because if they would just love each other your life would be more simple. But when they are constantly fighting with one another it puts you in a predicament.
I wanna give you a couple of points about love. Love will always work as an arbitrator. So you see in the letter that Paul works as an arbitrator, arbitrating between two opposing sides. Love is a peacemaker. It stands in a hedge. It makes up the gap. And the second thing I wanna tell you about love, love is a transformer. It will allow you to change. Love will allow you to grow. Love will love you as a servant, but still embrace you as a son. You will remember when the children of Israel were coming outta Egypt. They left Egypt like runaway slaves, running from a Pharaoh that was in hot pursuit of them, ready to destroy them. They came down to the Red Sea and heard their master chasing them and began to murmur and complain against Moses, "How dare you bring me out here to die in the wilderness"? Because slaves on the run live in fear, and they thought the master was go overtake them. But the Master of masters waved his power and opened up the Red Sea, and the slaves went across on dry ground. They stepped into the Red Seabed as slaves, but by the time they walked through the Red Sea and came up on the other side, they came up as sons.
Oh. Oh. This is what Paul would later call the baptism between the cloud and the sea. Baptism is when you go down one way, and you come up another way. I don't know who's been baptized in here, but it'll take you down a slave and bring you up a son. And then, you know who you really got if they can receive the new you. Yeah, love is a transformer. If you really love me, you won't just love the old me. You're gonna love the new me. There are some people in here right now that are going through transformation. Look at your neighbor and say, "How you like me now"? Yeah, how you like me now? That's gonna determine how we make it over the next few years, is how you like me now. If you only like me as long as I'm saying, "Yes, sir, master", we're gonna have some problems up in here. But if you can receive me as I am now, then I am profitable unto you.
Paul writes this love letter to be an abolitionist. An abolitionist is one who fights for the freedom of slaves. He writes a love letter, an emancipation proclamation, for Onesimus, and he says, "Perhaps he left you", this is my favorite line. "Perhaps he left you for a season that he might be with you forever". Sometimes you have to leave so you can come back better. Oh, I wish somebody understood the depth of what I just said to you. Yeah, I had to come away from you, because when we were together, it was toxic, it wasn't workin', I had to get away and get myself together. Now I can help you, because I'm operating from a position of strength. Oh, God, whoo, I'm gone mess with you, today, yeah.
See, the real challenge is to transform your understanding. Pharaoh couldn't do it, that's why God drowned him in the Red Sea, 'cause Pharaoh could only see the Hebrews as slaves, and because he wouldn't see them as sons, God used the same water that liberated the slaves to drown the slave master. It wasn't the slavery that was the problem, it was his inability to flow into a new idiom of thought. It's not what we did yesterday that's messin' us up, it's that you won't grow with me. And if you won't grow with me, you can't go with me. Ya'll don't hear me talkin' to 'ya, but I'm gone say it again. If you can't grow with me, you can't go with me, and you gone drowned tryin' to follow me into my destiny if you don't see who I am now.
Yeah, I'm almost done, but I told you, the only thing standin' between Onesimus and death was a love letter written in the shaky penmanship of an old man laying on a cold floor in a grotto, in a cave, saying, "Take my word for it, Onesimus is in the family. And if you can grow with him, you can go with him". He said, "The boy is so good, I started to keep him myself". He said, "But when I thought about you, I thought I would give you the first chance to embrace the new and improved Onesimus". He said, "And if you're gonna hold charges against him through somethin' he did in his past", he said, "He can't pay you, but I can. And if he owe you anything at all, charge it to my account".
Now, when I read, "Charge it to my account", all of a sudden, I understood why Philemon included it in the Bible, because here Paul is a shadow of Jesus Christ. He said, "You know, Jakes is a runaway slave, and he messed up some stuff that he doesn't have the power to make right, but if he owe 'ya anything, charge it to my account". So, since I started to investigate, I said this sounds so much like Jesus. I said, and there's some synergy between this runaway slave and this abolitionist who wrote a letter to liberate the captivated soul of Onesimus. And I said where have I seen this before?
Well, John jumped in and said, "Move, Philemon", he said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". And he ran on down and said, "And the Word was made flesh". I said, "The Word was made flesh"? The letter was made flesh? The letter was made flesh, this is Jesus! Wait a minute, now I understand who Jesus is. Jesus is God's love letter that when the damming, fallen nature of man was running away from a mess that he couldn't fix, God wrote a love letter. It took him 42 generations to write it, it took us 33 years to read it, and the I started thankin' God for the Roman solider who had an envelope opener.
The Bible said that when Jesus was on the cross... see, I didn't know he was a love letter, 'cause I was lookin' at the envelope. I couldn't read the letter for the envelope. But, when they pierced him in his side, they opened up the letter that started the New Testament, that liberated my life, that set me free, to God be the glory. The only thing standin' between me and death was a love letter. They hung him high, they stretched him wide, he hung his head, for me he died. That's love. That's love. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son".
The Roman solider opened up the letter, and love came pourin' out. The love liberated you from addictions, from bondages, from fear, from low self-esteem. The letter says you are useful, even though you have been abused. The letter says you are not a slave, but a son. The letter pleads to people who hold you hostage to who you used to be. It pleads for the possibility of change, the gift of transformation. Let me grow, don't hold me down to how you met me. The love letter says give me permission to evolve. Set me free from regulating me to an old debt between us. I am free through a love letter he wrote on my behalf to people I didn't have a voice with, he had a voice with.
He says I'm gonna write a letter that not only expresses the fact that you have my favor, but I'm gonna make your enemies be at peace with you. He said, "When a man's ways please the Lord, he will make his enemies be at peace with him". And so, today, when drugs hold you captive, God says I'm gone write a letter and tell 'em let my people go. When weakness holds you captive, with the strike of a pen, God said let him go. Let that girl go. Let that young boy go, he is useful to me if you can see him as a son and not a slave. Philemon believed in change. Never stop believing in change. If you can't believe it in me, you can receive it in you. Your capacity to let me grow releases your ability to evolve. As I close, this letter made it to the Bible. As I close, this letter made it to the Bible. This simple handwritten love letter says, "I want this in here so that the runaways can stop running".