Paul’s letter to Philemon is a brilliant appeal for Philemon to forgive his runaway bondservant, Onesimus. By God’s sovereignty, Onesimus fled to Rome and somehow was converted to Christianity by Paul – probably during Paul’s first imprisonment recorded in Acts 27-28.
Paul’s appeal is based on Christian love.
For this perhaps is why he was parted from you [Philemon] for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother (Philemon 15).
Paul’s letter reminds us of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. Because we are forgiven by God’s grace, we are given the grace to forgive others. Onesimus was willing to sacrifice his freedom to seek forgiveness from his former master, Philemon. And because he knew Philemon was also a Christian, he returned with the hope that Philemon would forgive him.
Only the power of God can change a runaway slave into a penitent man. And it is only by God’s power that Philemon could forgive and accept Onesimus as his Christian brother. Only God can produce such dramatic change in the human heart. He transforms us because of His steadfast love!
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
pin your light do we see light (Psalm 36:7-9).