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Even among good friends, it sometimes happens. Rather than simply living in the reality of the relationship, one or the other of those in the relationship presume upon the other. It’s the “Well, of course she will . . .” or the “I have no doubts that he would . . . .” It isn’t that we don’t, at times, have healthy expectations about the relationship we enjoy with others–but there are times we move past reasonable expectations and stray into an unhealthy presumptuousness. Rather then thinking what “might be nice,” we drift toward “what must be.”

I felt just a twinge of this in reading Paul’s letter to Philemon. At first read, it seems that Paul borders on presumption. But only on first read.

At the same time also prepare me a lodging, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you. (Philemon 22)

What does Paul have in mind?

He has been writing to a good friend–Philemon. He has been writing about Philemon’s run-away slave–Onesimus. Paul has asked to receive Philemon back as a brother in the Lord and anticipates that Philemon will do “even more” than what Paul asks with regard to Onesimus.

In one sense, this all makes sense. Paul is sending Onesimus back to his former master, Philemon. Paul writes to Philemon to clarify what has happened to the run-away slave who has come to faith in Christ. And Paul invites Philemon to treat Onesimus consistent with Onesimus’ new-found faith. That doesn’t feel too presumptuous, given how well Paul knows Philemon.

But then Paul writes: “Prepare for me a lodging.” It sounds like he is inviting himself over for stay! “Get ready to put me up for a while!” That borders on presumptuous  . . . at least at first read. But, when I look at it closer, I don’t think Paul’s is presumptuous . . . it’s a matter of perspective.

Paul knows Philemon–really knows this man well. He anticipates how Philemon’s love will overflow into his relationship with Onesimus. Paul affirms how Philemon’s life in Christ influences his relationships with others. And Paul knows that Philemon not only is praying for Paul’s release from prison but is hoping for Paul’s return to Colossae where Philemon lives.

So knowing what he does about Philemon, the call to “prepare for me a lodging” is only Paul affirming what he knows about Philemon. Seeing Philemon for the man that he is, Paul can rightly assume (not presume!) that Philemon will be delighted to have a place for Paul when he arrives.

And all this lead me to one simple thought: Have I lived so consistently and lovingly and graciously with others that they could rightly assume (with the right perspective) how Christ-like I would be in extending grace to them if I were given the chance?


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