Such a short and poignant letter. What a personal touch for a specific moment in time, involving one single individual. The first seven verses, that were in the last post, really set the stage and soften up Philemon for what Paul was going to request, don’t you think?
So who is Onesimus? He’s not a common character that we remember, but perhaps we should. I did a little research. Whether or not Wikipedia is reliable, Philemon was a slave master, and Onesimus was a slave that had run away from him. At some point, Onesimus crossed paths with Paul and became a follower of Jesus.
We see from Paul’s words to Philemon that Onesimus is now coming back with Paul’s “own heart”. Onesimus is now a “beloved brother”. Paul believes Onesimus will be helpful to Philemon and encourages him to welcome Onesimus as more than a slave. This will mean that Philemon will first need to forgive Onesimus for running away. Paul is intervening on Onesimus’ behalf, much like Jesus will intervene for us.
Forgiveness can be difficult. Is there someone in your life that has hurt you or someone you love? Have you been able to forgive them? Forgiveness is not condoning the hurt or forgetting that it ever happened. Forgiveness is deeper than that and frees us from a bondage to the memory. We may see the person or we may just cleanse our self of the of hurt without face to face contact. Most importantly, we must forgive as our Father in heaven forgives.
You’ve probably heard it said that a hurt we feel from what someone else has done to us only hurts us. The person who hurt us is not wallowing or struggling. They may not even remember hurting us. We have to release the power of the hurt and be free. Forgiveness. It’s hard but so worth it.
The book of Philemon really illustrates the importance of forgiveness in our faithful living. It also strikes me as very special. God is a very big God, yet he works his miracles and changes the lives of the common people, one at a time. He cares for all of us.
Let’s pray. Lord thank you for Onesimus’ heart. As he sought after something different for his life, he found you. His heart was open and you orchestrated his redemption. May we have a hungry heart like Onesimus that searches for you. Find us Lord where we are. Cleanse us of the hurts we are holding on to. Help us to forgive those who have hurt us and who keep us in bondage. Refresh us today and fill us with your perfect peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.