As I was meditating through the book of Philemon one verse particularly caught my attention.
I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment (Phm 1:10; NASB).
It produced a strange warmth in my heart. The reason for this is the the intimate language Paul employs while pleading Onesimus’ case with Philemon. This verse seems to echo John 3:16 since KJV and NASB both employ the word “begotten” (KJV also uses “son”). Paul’s care for his disciples was like that of a father for his son.
This does not seem to be an isolated verse where Paul uses such intimate language. As I looked through other letters of his’, such language abounds. Paul called Timothy his “beloved child in faith”(2 Tim1:2). Titus was his “true child in the common faith” (Tit 1:4). This language was not confined to individuals, he applied them even to churches. When the Corinthian church was being torn apart by sectarianism, he informed them that though they may have many guides yet they have only one father in the Gospel – he was their father in the Gospel (1 Cor 4:15). When Galatians were being led astray by the circumcision party, Paul chided them and corrected them. He later added that he “was in pains of childbirth till Christ was formed in them.” He intensely desired to be with them in order to protect them from this damning heresy(Gal 4:19-20).
Finally, in 2 Corinthians 11 Paul reveals his hardships to the Corinthians in order to defend his apostleship. He says a lot of things – five times he received forty lashes minus one from the Jews; three times he was beaten with rods; once he was stoned; three times he was shipwrecked; he was in dangers from robbers; dangers from Jews; from Gentiles; and many other things. Finally he mentions that in addition to all these “external things” he had to bear the pressure of his concern for all the churches. Placing this fact in the last of his list of hardships is indicative of what burdened him most — not the “external” things but the “internal” thing, which is his concern for all the churches. That was a far greater hardship than the external ones. Such was the intensity of Paul’s pastoral concern.
Paul is almost always remembered as a missionary. But when I meditated on these verses – he is also a role-model pastor. He was very much like the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in caring for his sheep. Paul’s pastoral ministry is an example that every Pastor must follow.
Sadly, as a layman in India, I must confess that most Pastors don’t even come anywhere remotely close to Paul’s example. But I think this is not something applicable only to Pastors. Every Christian is a pastor to at least a few, at least to his family, if not more. God expects same kind of pastoral care and concern towards that little flock as well. Lord, grant me such a pastoral attitude so that your sheep may be tended and fed well (John 21: 15- 17).