Remember the Bible Series, #17
A Letter Of Pardon
But without your consent I would do nothing, so that your goodness would not be forced, but give willingly.
~ Philemon 1:14
The art of letter writing is nearly gone. We are more likely to receive a quick text on our phone, or an e-mail. There is nothing especially wrong with that, but it’s nice to look in the Bible and see a beautifully written personal letter. Philemon is one such letter. It is written by Paul while in prison in Rome.
Onesimus, a slave, steals from his owner, Philemon, and runs away, where he meets Paul. At some point Onesimus is converted, to become a Christian. Paul wants him to return to Philemon, and he wants a relationship not only restored, but made better. Paul is sending this letter to convince Philemon to forgive Onesimus and accept him, not as a slave, but as a brother.
Paul begins his letter with his greetings followed by praise. Paul is a great salesman. He knows the art of winning one over by appealing to Philemon in just the right way. Paul does not command, although he claims he has the right to do so, but instead he pleas for Philemon to show love in this matter of forgiveness and acceptance of Onesimus. Paul, in his own handwriting, offers to pay any debt that Onesimus may owe.
Paul explains the worth of Onesimus, saying, “I would rather keep him here with me because his service to me is of great value.” Paul avows to his closeness with Onesimus, referring to him as his child. Paul even appeals to Philemon’s kindness and love in this matter. At this point, how could Philemon not be swayed, if nothing else out of curiosity’s sake, to meet this new Onesimus?
So Paul is sending Onesimus back to his owner, a changed man. Paul referred to him as once useless, but now useful, a helper and brother in Christ. Paul wants Philemon to welcome Onesimus as he would Paul, with open arms, forgiving him, and accepting him as a free man, thus this letter.
Did Philemon do as Paul asked? Could this be the same Onesimus mentioned in Colossians 4 as a free man? We really do not know for sure but we hope that a relationship was restored, forgiveness was shown on both sides, and someone was set free from slavery.
Maybe there is someone that comes to mind that needs our forgiveness. We may be the one in slavery to our unforgiving heart? God does not force us to forgive, but in His love letter to us, He reminds us that we owe everything to Him. It is a freeing of our soul, to grant pardon.
Dear Father, Help me to show grace to others as you have shown to me. In Christ I pray, Amen
~ Jenny Calvert