Shepherd God, where would I be without Your presence and promises? I praise You afresh.
Read Philemon 1:8-25
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Some will grumble. Why should Onesimus be rewarded for running away? What has he done to deserve it? But that’s what God’s grace is like. That’s what God’s love is like” (N. T. Wright). Yes, we all have experienced that amazing grace!
Forgiving someone who has injured you takes a lot of grace. Even the finest Christian finds himself rehearsing the reasons why judgment is more important than mercy. Paul’s careful letter shows us how grace can make the difference.
Onesimus the runaway slave had found Paul the apostle to be closer than a brother. It’s clear from this whole section: Paul saw him as “my son,” who was “useful” to him, who is “my very heart” and whom he would gladly keep if he could (10-13). He was now a beloved brother in the Lord. Philemon must have gotten the point. How could he treat Onesimus as “just a slave” when he meant so much to Paul? And although Onesimus was guilty of running away from Philemon, he was now a fellow believer who should be forgiven and welcomed back as a brother (16). Paul’s approach is gentle but bold. He writes with tact and care but he is very direct in his approach. He is willing to confront. “If you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me” (17). And although he offers to pay any debts, he carefully articulates Philemon’s own indebtedness–after all, he had come to faith through Paul. He owed his very life to him (19).
It is sometimes asked why Paul did not fight the injustices of slavery in a more open fashion. This short letter suggests that he planted seeds of revolution. In the new society of the church, where relationships were founded on the Gospel and where respect and love and forgiveness were its hallmarks, an alternative society was emerging, characterized by reconciliation, which eventually would win the day. As Tom Wright says about this book, and about its final verse, it is full of Christ-shaped grace.
How does your awareness of God’s grace change the way you live? Are there those you know in your family, church, or workplace who are struggling to be reconciled to others? What can you do, as a reconciler, to help?
Loving Lord, my prayer is that I will model to the world the difference Jesus makes in relationships. To do this, I stand in constant need of Your mercy and grace.