If there is one thing wimps are good at, it’s running away from bad situations. Today’s wimp is Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave of one of Paul’s friend, Philemon. Onesimus stole money from Philemon and fled. While away he encounters Paul and Paul grows to view him as a son. The Book of Philemon is one of the shortest books in the Bible consisting of a single chapter with 25 verses. The book is a letter from Paul asking Philemon not only to take Onesimus back, but to take him back as a brother in Christ, not a slave.
Paul is definitely a character who has a way with words. He starts off the letter by buttering Philemon up: “I always thank my God when I remember you in my prayers. That’s because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus. I hear about your love for all of God’s people.” (Philemon 1: 4 – 5).
Paul also points out that he doesn’t want to command Philemon to do anything. “Because of the authority Christ has given me, I could be bold. I could order you to do what you should do anyway. But I make my appeal to you on the basis of our love for each other” (Philemon 1: 8 – 9)
Then he makes the BIG ask: Take Onesimus back. “Do you think of me as a believer who works together with you? Then welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me” (Philemon 1: 17)
Then he raises the stakes even higher by taking responsibility for any debt Onesimus may owe. “Has he done anything wrong to you? Does he owe you anything? Then charge it to me. I’ll pay it back. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I won’t even mention that you owe me your very life”(Philemon 1: 18 – 19). Although we see at the end of this passage he sprinkles a little reminder in there about the debt the Philemon, himself owes.
He closes out with an announcement he’ll be visiting soon. “There is one more thing. Have a guest room ready for me. I hope I can return to all of you in answer to your prayers” (Philemon 1:22). I suspect this visit is more of a check up on how things are going between Onesimus and Philemon than a social call.
Next time, we’ll look at the many lessons we can get from this little book.