You know how you can ask favors from people you know really well, that you have done favors for before? In the book of Philemon, that’s what the apostle Paul does.
The story goes…A slave named Onesimus escaped his master in Colossae and travelled to Rome. (That’s about a thousand miles!) Anyway, Onesimus ended up in a huge city and as God would have it, he met Paul, who led him to the Lord. Onesimus’ heart was changed immediately! Onesimus became a great help and encouragement to Paul and he began to love him like a son. However much Paul wanted to keep Onesimus with him, he wrote to Philemon, Onesimus’ master, to take him back.
Why would he do that? Because he could not keep something that was Philemon’s to use. Although he loved Onesimus like a son, describing Onesimus as “my very heart” (Philemon 1:12), he wants Onesimus to return to his master and he requests that Philemon take Onesimus back, even offering to repay anything that Onesimus owes to Philemon. Paul encourages him to do this favor because of the love of Christ between them, not because he could order him to. He writes to Philemon:
“But without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.” Philemon 1:14 NIV
So, Paul not only asked Philemon a favor; he asked for a favor that would send his “son” away, whose help and company he needed and loved. With good friends, we can ask them anything. Even so, Paul did not want to impose his will on Philemon. Rather he tried to convince him to do the right thing. He asks Philemon to take Onesimus back, not as a slave, but
“better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.” Philemon 1:16 NIV
Does anyone reading this see what I see? I wonder if it crossed Paul’s mind that he was, in a small but similar way, copying what God and Jesus did for us. Like God, he is sending his “son” away for the good of someone else. Like Jesus, he is willing to pay what Onesimus owes. Like God, he is giving up something He loves for the greater good. Like Jesus, he does not focus on Onesimus’ sin, but sees him as a new man in Christ, useful for the kingdom! Just wow…
You knew before I read this book of Philemon, that I would learn a lot and be excited by it! What a story! Once again, Paul sets the example for us, having learned from You. Please keep blessing this time in the Word with You and my brothers and sister in Christ. We want to serve You better, as slaves to a wonderful Master. Thank You for paying what we owed and forgetting our past sins. We love You so much!
Consider how God gave His Son for our good and how Paul gave someone he loved back to his master. Not that we can ever repay God, but as servants honoring a Master, what can we sacrifice today for someone else’s good? Make a point of giving something you like and can use, to someone who needs it more. With no glory, let’s do it for God:) Time, money, food, books or furniture come to mind.
Love and prayers to all of you!