“…hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints…”
and toward all the saints
Philemon cared about other believers. Paul is sending the renegade Onesimus back to his master Philemon with the letter to Philemon. Paul could trust Philemon in dealing fairly with Onesimus. Philemon cared more than for his “four and no more.” Onesimus was a brother in the faith, so Paul had confidence that Philemon would deal fairly with Onesimus. Onesimus needed Philemon’s forgiveness.
Philemon loved “all” the saints. Philemon will have his love for “all” challenged when Paul asks him to forgive Onesimus, who did him wrong. This will be an acid test of his love for “all.”
God wants us to love all the saints, not most.
Biblical love is more than sentiment. It loves in good time, and it loves in difficult times. The acid test of whether we love others is loving them in difficult times.
Jn 13:34-35, 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jn 15:17, “These things I command you, that you love one another.”
Ro 13:8, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law”
1 Co 13:1, 13, 1 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal… 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Pe 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
You will have come to a great milestone in your spiritual life when you “cover” a believer’s sin rather than expose him. When we hear of a Christian speaking despairingly of another believer, we know automatically that he does not love his brother in Christ. None of us owns all the facts. But even if we possess the facts, it makes no difference whether we are right or wrong in our criticism; we love them by not exposing them. Our criticism may be justified, but our communication of it is not justified.
To love some of the saints is relatively simple, but to love all is more difficult. We are naturally attracted to some people on a human level. Some are more compatible, friendlier, or more personal, but the criterion at hand is that God wants us to love all the saints, whatever their human assets or liabilities.
Uncritical love is an indication that we are a genuine believer. We develop confidence that we are Christians this way.
1 Jn 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”