Onesimus was a slave who ran away from his master Philemon. He went to Rome and eventually met Paul who led him to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Onesimus stayed with the apostle and helped him in the ministry. Eventually they knew it was time for the “runaway slave” to return to his master. Paul was a personal friend with Philemon, so he wrote a letter to help the two men reconcile their relationship. He said...
Philemon—my dear friend—greetings to you, your family, and the church that meets in your home. I pray for you on a regular basis. I thank God for the love you have for the Lord Jesus Christ and for fellow believers. Those who meet you are encouraged in their faith.
Dear brother, you know me. I don’t normally hesitate in telling you what is right and wrong. I’m usually quick in reminding you of your duties in Christ. But I’m not going to do that this time. Instead, I am going to beg.
Picture this in your mind. I’m an old man who is in prison for the cause of Jesus Christ. In my weakness, God sent me a helper, Onesimus—a man who caused you pain and grief. But God sent him to me and I was able to introduce him to Jesus. He yielded his life to Christ and then became invaluable as a helper to me.
In a way, it was like you sent him here to help me because you couldn’t come yourself. I don’t know how I can carry on without him; but he and I both know he should go back to you. He was helping me in your stead, but we didn’t have your permission.
Listen, he was a worthless slave when he ran away from you. Now he’s coming back as a valuable brother in Christ, a co-worker in the ministry and a dear friend of mine. Receive him back in love.
Oh, concerning those things he stole from you —put those on my account. Here, I will pick up the quill and write this in my own handwriting. “I, Paul, will repay it.” I won’t remind you of the fact that you actually owe me your very life.
Please receive him as if you were receiving me. You’ll bring joy to my life when I hear how you’ve accepted Onesimus back into your life and home.
But what am I talking about? I know you’ll do this and even more.
By the way, prepare your guest room for me. I know you’ve been praying that I’d be set free and come back to visit you. I think the Lord is going to answer your prayers.
Greet all my good friends who are there. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.