Growing up I called myself a Christian. I did everything a “Christian” should do, the only problem was that I had no relationship with God. As I went through my college years and into the present time, I still feel like my relationship with God is at such a basic level. Just like any relationship, it takes time to truly get to know one another. I am finally working on that with God and as I do, I start to understand things that I didn’t have a clue on in my younger years. I imagine that in 50 years from now, I will look back and have a good laugh at what I thought I knew and the relationship I thought I had with God. Philemon is a short letter that is written by Paul and is a story about a guy named Onesimus. Let’s dive into this!
Philemon Chapter 1 is a story about forgiveness. I think we can all relate and think of a time where we did something before we knew Christ, only to be saved by grace through faith and now have to face the problem you created. Onesimus had to do that very thing in this story.
The letter starts off with Paul writing to someone named Philemon. We found out that Philemon was a guy that Paul shared the gospel with and it changed his life. Philemon went back to where he lived to tell others about the gospel and he grew to be a major part of the church. As the letter continues we find out that Philemon had a bondservant (slave/employee) named Onesimus. Onesimus did something to Philemon, the passage hints toward him stealing something because Paul offers to put Onesimus’s debt on his “tab.”
Onesimus, after stealing from Philemon, runs off to Rome to escape any kind of reprimand but guess what? He runs into a guy named Paul. Paul teaches him the gospel and he becomes a Christ Follower. Now the story could have ended right there. Paul could have used Onesimus to help him out with ministry in Rome, but check out what he does!
I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
Do you see the maturity in this passage? Paul is good friends with Philemon and as he got to know Onesimus he found out that he was one of Philemon’s bondservants. He could have just sent Philemon a letter and said, “ Hey man, I found your boy Onesimus. He heard the gospel and believed, now he’s my right-hand man so I’m going to need him here,” or Paul could have never said a word BUT he didn’t do either one of those. He chose to get his friend’s consent.
Have you ever done something behind someone’s back thinking they would never find out…. and they did? Paul is so mature in his faith that he wants to make things right with Philemon and Onesimus rather than selfishly keeping him for his own intentions. Even though his intentions were good.
I think the moral of the story is to think about the decisions you make and how they affect not only yourself but also others. Also be willing to forgive someone who has wronged you, especially if they didn’t know Christ at the time that they wronged you. Have a great Thursday everyone!