"And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ."
How many times I have done what Paul suspected Philemon might do — I have held with tight fists to what I thought I was entitled to have and asserted what I thought were my rights. Instead, Paul prays for his friend Philemon to extend generosity to his runaway slave Onesimus and to cede his legal rights to have Onesimus returned after escaping. Paul wants to remind Philemon, and me, generosity flows from experience of the good things we have in Christ.
We don’t own slaves today, legally or literally, but we’re bound to know people in our work environments who feel they are regarded as enslaved. Enslaved by the attitudes toward them, punitive financial arrangements, an environment of fear and insecurity. I know in hindsight I am ashamed to see I was and can be a ‘slavedriver’ – scrutinizing productivity, hours worked, cold evaluations. If my life is to be changed by Christ, the opportunity to be generous should mean more than the rights conferred by some title or responsibility at work.
Whether it’s with subordinates or peers at work, family, or other relationships, generous actions from faith in Christ may mean visibly standing down though you’re right, releasing someone from your judgment, giving up your right to recompense, giving up your right to take retribution. This is Paul’s call for faith-led generosity in relationships.
Doris Bamford is coleading a Saturday Growth Group for Women Over 35. She lives on the Upper East Side, and she’s the proud mother of a college sophomore girl and high school senior boy – and two Jack Russell Terriers.