“Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.” ~ Philemon 20
Explanation of the Text: At initial glance, this verse may be confusing and could appear to be very selfish in nature. However, a further look at the text should reveal that what Paul is saying is that he is pleased when others are thriving in the Lord. The emphasis of the verse is not on the benefit or pleasure that Paul receives, but is on the relationship of someone else, in this case Philemon, and that person’s relationship with God. As a spiritual father to many, a great example of this would be the relationship of a father and son. When the son is growing and learning, the father finds great joy. It is the same here, that Paul is excited for his own children as they develop a deeper relationship with God. Robert Gromacki adds insight into the verse noting, “Joy comes from proper relationships between people, not from the possession of things. For believers, however, joy must be heightened by truth and spiritual guidelines (‘in the Lord’). Believers are to encourage and edify each other. Paul desired that Philemon might minister to him through the proper treatment of Onesimus.”
Examination & Application of the Text: Part of living within the body of Christ should be a desire for others. A desire to seem them learn, to see them grow, to see them find joy in a relationship with Jesus Christ. It should be considered a privilege that God uses each of us in that process with individuals. Our desire from others is not for them to do something we want, but to find joy in them when they act in obedience to the standards of God’s word out of a love for Him. Too often, our relationships are characterized more by what we personally get out of it. Often, when a person does not get what they want, they simply leave the relationship. This is not the model of relationships that are given. Instead, a proper relationship is one that seeks the interest of the other person out of a desire to see God glorified. So the question is, what are your relationships with other people characterized by? A desire for them or a desire for self? May we take a lesson from Paul here and set ourselves aside so that we grow in oneness with others by putting God first in everything, including within our relationship to others.
 Robert Gromacki, Stand Perfect in Wisdom: An Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 202.