The book of Philemon in the Bible is sandwiched between Titus and Hebrews. In our modern day Bibles it is only one chapter long and consists of 25 verses. I say modern day because when this was written it was actually a letter.
In this letter, the apostle Paul is writing to Philemon from prison. He begins by greeting Philemon and his relatives, and begins giving praise to God, and transitions to giving praise to Philemon for his growth in the Lord and his recent actions.
“Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus. I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison.” (vs 7-10)
Notice at the beginning of this section, Paul tells Philemon how proud he is. Then he gets bold with him and asks a favor. Where it gets interesting is the next sentence Paul makes, “I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do.” What we see here, is that Paul is being kind by asking but in all reality because Philemon has claimed and shown by his actions that his is a Christian (Christ-follower), he really doesn’t have another option here.
So what is this crazy request? Paul asks Philemon to show kindness, the very thing Philemon was praised for a few sentences earlier, to his former useless servant.
“Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart. I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced.” (vs 11-14)
Verses 10-12 show us Paul’s love for Onesimus (Oh-nes-i-mus). He took his own time and discipled him in the faith. When it appears that no one else wanted to take him is, Paul showed him the love of Christ and helped turn his useless life into one of use. In fact, we see here that he became so useful, Paul didn’t want to send him away. We see the culture of the day play in here. Onesimus was Philemon’s servant and Paul did not want to act without Philemon’s permission.
I find it so interesting that Paul is humbly authoritative. We see for the second time that Paul is telling Philemon he could tell him what to do but would rather him make the decision because he wants to.
“If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. i, paul, write this with my own hand: i will repay it. and i won’t mention that you owe me your very soul ! Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ. I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!” (vs 18-21)
We see in the closing thoughts, that Paul is willing to cover any debt or wrongdoing that Onesimus may have committed in his life before meeting Christ. Paul is doing all that is in his power to rekindle this relationship and reconcile the differences of Philemon and Onesimus.
Paul’s final words to Philemon before saying goodbye are simply that he knows in the end, Philemon will make the right choice and go far beyond that. What a great life that these men lived. To write to each other in such a bold and direct way, yet love was flowing with each word. For Paul to know that in the end Philemon would not let his flesh overtake what the Spirit of God wanted to do in this situation. To trust that the minimum would not be done, but far greater.
To check out the whole story, visit: https://www.bible.com/bible/116/phm.1.nlt
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