I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love, and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment.
Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."
Then he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, 'Look there!' or 'Look here!' Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.
The bonds of love and friendship go far beyond the letter of the law. In the introduction, Paul calls Philemon a beloved friend and fellow worker, and he expresses his joy and comfort in his rich friend's love, "because through you the hearts of God's people have been refreshed." We too are called to a love that refreshes and unites, and to reach out so as to find in each man or woman our own kith and kine, our "joy and comfort." At first they may seem as distant from us as the runaway slave was from Philemon, and yet they become like a neighbour to us. While Paul does not directly take issue with slavery, he sees equal dignity between slaves and others. And therefore, "Among you there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). This insight would eventually do away with the scandal of slavery in the Christian world.
We can be impatient and like the questioners of Jesus, press him for an answer, "When will the reign of God come?" In replying, he immediately dismisses the question, when. The kingdom of God is not to be identified with a point of time; this is an important warning to those who try to predict the end of the world on such and such a day. Jesus also refuses to locate the reign of God "here" or "there." There is no particular, all-holy place where the kingdom must appear, in one country rather than another. Jesus' answer is baffling but also consoling: The reign of God is already in your midst. Intimately, personally rooted within us, is the kingdom of God, already begun in Jesus who dwells within us. In him we may already taste the sweetness of eternal life. Here we get the strength to be strong and loyal, for God's wisdom already lives in our hearts.
There is an Easter poem by Joseph Mary Plunkett which begins, 'I see his blood upon the rose and in the stars the glory of his eyes.' All of nature spoke to him of Jesus. He recognized the Lord in the wonder and diversity of God's creation. He had a keen eye, a spiritual eye. However, the Pharisees seemed to lack that keen eye. They asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was to come, but were blind to the signs of God's kingdom already present to them. Jesus told them, 'You must know, the kingdom of God is among you,' referring to all that was happening in his ministry, all that he was saying and doing.
The God of life was powerfully at work in the ministry of Jesus and yet many people could not see that; instead they felt threatened by him. The God of life continues to work powerfully among us in and through the risen Lord, in and through the Holy Spirit. What Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit is there to be observed in people's lives, the first fruit of the final harvest of the kingdom of God. We need eyes to see the signs of the kingdom in our midst. We come before the Lord in our blindness, asking him to help us to see.