By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Reading: Philemon
Key Scripture Verses: Philemon 1:17
“So if you consider me a partner welcome him as you would welcome me.”
(NIV, Life Application Bible)
Paul’s letter to Philemon is short and concerns Onesimus, Philemon’s slave who had run away. After Onesimus left, he ended up in the company of Paul who converted him to become a disciple of Christ. He spent a lot of time under Paul’s tutelage and became his assistant and close friend and brother in Christ. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, he appeals to him to take back Onesimus into his household and he vows to pay any debts owed and to replace anything Onesimus might have stolen when he left. Not only does Paul ask Philemon to take Onesimus back, he asks him to take him back not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.
Paul had led Philemon to Christ and had some authority to tell him what to do; but, instead, he tactfully asked him to forgive Onesimus any wrongs and offered to pay his debts on his behalf.
Paul indicates that he trusts that Philemon will not only do as he asks, but that as they all share the same love of Christ, he is confident that Philemon will forgive Onesimus.
Sometimes it’s hard to forgive someone who has wronged us, but Christ asks us to love one another and to forgive each other, as he has forgiven us. Jesus not only taught us to forgive each other, he taught us to forgive each other many times over—not just once, but over and over again. And he even incorporated that forgiveness in the model prayer he taught the disciples, the prayer we regularly pray in our churches even today: “…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (The Lord’s Prayer—Luke 11:2-4).
Forgiving others is not only grace to the offending party, but also offers us peace as well. Nothing feels worse than to be at odds with someone. If we want to be forgiven when we have offended someone else or sinned against God, we are to forgive.
To truly forgive someone means to allow him to recover from his offense, to give him another chance, not to keep remembering and bringing up the offense and acting hurt by it. We have to let go of the hurt and restore relationship. And that’s what Paul suggested here. Onesimus was a changed man—he was now a disciple of Christ, a close friend of Paul, and a brother in Christ. Paul believed in him enough to be responsible for his debts and to help him restore his relationship with Philemon. And what a wonderful act of love to restore his friends to each other in this way! Shouldn’t we do the same for our brothers and sisters in Christ?