Have you ever been asked to do something you really don’t want to? But you really care for and respect the person that is asking you?
Perhaps what they ask you is beyond the realms of your generosity, yet…
1 From Paul, who is in jail for serving Christ Jesus, and from Timothy, who is like a brother because of our faith.
Philemon, you work with us and are very dear to us. This letter is to you 2 and to the church that meets in your home. It is also to our dear friend Apphia and to Archippus, who serves the Lord as we do.
3 I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
Philemon’s Love and Faith
4 Philemon, each time I mention you in my prayers, I thank God. 5 I hear about your faith in our Lord Jesus and about your love for all of God’s people. 6 As you share your faith with others, I pray that they may come to know all the blessings Christ has given us. 7 My friend, your love has made me happy and has greatly encouraged me. It has also cheered the hearts of God’s people.
Paul Speaks to Philemon about Onesimus
8 Christ gives me the courage to tell you what to do. 9 But I would rather ask you to do it simply because of love. Yes, as someonein jail for Christ, 10 I beg you to help Onesimus! He is like a son to me because I led him to Christ here in jail. 11 Before this, he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me.
12 Sending Onesimus back to you makes me very sad. 13 I would like to keep him here with me, where he could take your place in helping me while I am here in prison for preaching the good news. 14 But I won’t do anything unless you agree to it first. I want your act of kindness to come from your heart, and not be something you feel forced to do.
15 Perhaps Onesimus was taken from you for a little while so that you could have him back for good, 16 but not as a slave. Onesimus is much more than a slave. To me he is a dear friend, but to you he is even more, both as a person and as a follower of the Lord.
17 If you consider me a friend because of Christ, then welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me. 18 If he has cheated you or owes you anything, charge it to my account. 19 With my own hand I write: I, PAUL, WILL PAY YOU BACK. But don’t forget that you owe me your life. 20 My dear friend and follower of Christ our Lord, please cheer me up by doing this for me.
21 I am sure you will do all I have asked, and even more.
The Book of Philemon is just 25 verses long, and written with a very specific purpose – to beg Philemon to help Onesimus. Philemon was a prominent Christian in his community. His slave, Onesimus had run away, but come into contact with Paul whilst he was in prison. Onesimus had become a Christian himself and so Paul writes to Philemon asking him to give Onesimus a second chance – and more than that to welcome him as a Christian brother.
Onesimus had once been useless – now he is a useful person, so useful that Paul would prefer to keep him with himself, but he hands him back to Philemon.
Paul wants Philemon to restore his relationship with Onesimus, he wants him to be welcomed as Paul himself would be – but not because he is forced, but because he chooses to. He also promises to pay back himself anything that Onesimus owes to Philemon.
So for its brevity, the book is about the important subjects of forgiveness and reconciliation – the giving of another chance, allowing someone to prove they are sorry. There are bells ringing loudly in my mind about someone promising to pay back anything that is owed by this man, one man promising to make another man’s mistakes right.
We are reminded again of the Christian imperative to forgive, to give another chance, and to show grace to others.
Would I want to welcome back someone who had cheated me and run away from me? Someone who had abused my trust and good nature?
Would I expect to be given another chance myself…?
I thank you Lord
that you give second, third, fourth,
and many more chances.
That when I get things wrong,
you do not turn your back on me,
but welcome me as I return to try again.
May I be someone
who gives another chance to others,
not turning them away
because they have got something wrong,
or abused my help to them.
May I remember your generosity to me
and apply that generosity
to all around me
for no one has done anything worse than me