“It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever.” (NLT)
Extended reading: Philemon
I love stories of redemption. The book of Philemon talks about one.
If you have never read that small book (or page), here is a quick rundown. There is a rich man called Philemon who is also a Christian believer. He has a servant called Onesimus, who steals from Philemon and runs away. I am assuming he gets caught and meets Paul in prison, who gives him the Gospel.
Onesimus may have finished serving his time and Paul encourages him to go back to his master, Philemon. It would actually be safe to do something like that in our times than back then. In those days, Philemon had the authority to get him flogged, executed even. That was the law back then. I could understand if Onesimus was reluctant to go back, if he was.
So Paul not only convinced Onesimus to go back but vouches for him. He requests Philemon to accept him back. And not just as a slave but as a brother in Christ.
There are two things here – for Onesimus, going back means getting punished. He found new life with Paul and he could stay there. He could have a free life. Start afresh. But he decides to go back.
For Philemon, accepting Onesimus meant lowering his standards. What if other servants thought it was okay to steal from him? His honor would take a beating because instead of punishing the rogue servant, he has to aceept him and Paul says as a brother.
True repentance and forgiveness. I don’t know what happened to Onesimus. It doesn’t say in the Bible. But I am going to safely assume that Phil accepted him back. Before their meeting, both must have spent a lot of time in prayer. Praying for grace and strength for what they have to do. For the Holy Spirit to guide them and to help with the right words to say at the right time.
Many of us find ourselves on either side at differnt points in our life. Sometimes we need to forgive. Sometimes we need to ask forgiveness. Both are very difficult things to do. It is more than just saying sorry. It is about setting things right. It is about the heart more than just the words. Sometimes we give up and sometimes, we give in.
Are you ready?
What do I pray?
Lord, help me forgive those who hurt me. Help me seek forgiveness from those who I have hurt. Thank You for your forgiveness that I have, through Your blood. Help me forgive just like you forgave me.
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