Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker. . . I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. . . . I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. . . . no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. . . . Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
Philemon 1:1-21 (selected verses)
Wisdom Welcomes the Estranged
“I don’t have anything to say to you,” he responded as he closed the door. I wanted to reconcile with my brother, but he was unwilling to reconcile with me.
Like me, Onesimus wanted to reconcile with his brother. Onesimus was the slave of a Christian named Philemon. For unknown reasons, Onesimus ran away from his master and went to Rome.
In Rome, Onesimus met the apostle Paul who introduced him to his Savior. Onesimus learned that God had reconciled the world to himself through the cross. Jesus had paid for his sin! Onesimus believed the good news and became a changed man. So, Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with a letter.
Paul knew that Philemon treasured God’s reconciliation in Christ. So, in his letter, Paul called for Christian wisdom: Reconcile with Onesimus and receive him, not as a slave but a freeman and brother in Christ. This act of mercy would glorify Christ.
The good news of Jesus changes us too. As those who are wise in Christ, God equips and empowers us to glorify Christ by reconciling with one another. If we have run away from responsibility, we will make amends. If a brother or sister in Christ sins against us, we will show them their fault. And we will forgive and receive them back as if they had done us no harm whenever they repent.
For, we were slaves once too, slaves to sin. God should punish us, but Jesus intervened for us. He surrendered his rights as God and suffered our punishment. Because he satisfied our debt, God welcomes us back. No longer as slaves, but his children.
Lord, help me to glorify you by repenting of my sin, rejoicing in forgiveness, and reconciling with others. Amen.