“I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” Philemon 7
Philemon, by "[his] love", had provided heart-refreshing for his fellow believers. "[His love]" had given breaths of fresh air to God’s people; swigs of cool water to their hearts. And, given that Paul had just called Philemon a “fellow worker” (v.1), and that he’d just mentioned (v.2) that it was “in [Philemon’s] house” that his church family held their gatherings, we are probably to understand these two bits of information as at least part of what Paul had in mind when he wrote of Philemon’s refreshing love. We are probably to understand Philemon’s Christian work and hospitality as at least part of the refreshing love for which Paul commended him in Philemon 7 (and thus as at least two ways in which we might love and refresh the saints, as well).
But whatever Paul had in mind re: Philemon’s love – whether Christian work, Christian hospitality, and/or other aspects of Christian love – Paul commended him for it, and encouraged him with the fact that his love had provided refreshing for his fellow believers. “The hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you”^ said Paul!
And let me now say that Paul's words are also true of you, loving Christian. And so I echo them to you, now. I say to you: “The hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you”^; through “your love”^! And I echo Paul not only because what he says is true of you, loving Christian; but I do it also, in imitation of Paul, as commendation and encouragement – that “the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you”^; through “your love”^! Your service in the church nursery has allowed moms to lap up just a little more of the refreshment that comes from the Sunday lesson or sermon. The knowledge that you are praying for them has heartened your fellow believers. Your encouraging text or card has put a little wind in the sails of your brother or sister’s day. The meals you dropped off, and the benevolence you placed in their hands, have been encouraging reminders that God and His people care. Your visits in the hospital and the nursing home have been the same, and the scriptures you have shared in those moments have breathed fresh air into the soul of the sufferer. Your hospitality, like Philemon’s, has not only refreshed the bodies, but “the hearts of the saints”^, as well. And your Bible teaching has been refreshment, too.
Oh, my Christian friend! If you have loved like Philemon loved, then you can be sure that God has used you to refresh like Philemon refreshed! So be encouraged, you who have done so! And praise God (v.4) for using you in this way! And keep at it (vv.8-22, notice especially v.20)! “Let us not lose heart in doing good”. “The hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you”^ who love … and they will continue to be refreshed if you will keep on loving!
^Italicized emphasis in scripture quotations has been added.