God’s Word Goes Forth: Tell of God’s Mercy and Forgiveness
Philemon 1-25: Today’s reading is a short letter from Paul to a church leader named Philemon. He tells Philemon that he is sending the slave Onesimus back to him. Onesimus had run away from Philemon’s household. Because Onesimus has become Paul’s student, Paul hopes Philemon will accept Onesimus back as a follower of the Lord.
Today's Scripture: Philemon 6
My prayer is that our fellowship with you as believers will bring about a deeper understanding of every blessing which we have in our life in union with Christ.
1 From Paul, a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy— To our friend and fellow worker Philemon, 2 and the church that meets in your house, and our sister Apphia, and our fellow soldier Archippus: 3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 4 Brother Philemon, every time I pray, I mention you and give thanks to my God. 5 For I hear of your love for all of God's people and the faith you have in the Lord Jesus. 6 My prayer is that our fellowship with you as believers will bring about a deeper understanding of every blessing which we have in our life in union with Christ. 7 Your love, dear brother, has brought me great joy and much encouragement! You have cheered the hearts of all of God's people. 8 For this reason I could be bold enough, as your brother in Christ, to order you to do what should be done. 9 But because I love you, I make a request instead. I do this even though I am Paul, the ambassador of Christ Jesus, and at present also a prisoner for his sake. 10 So I make a request to you on behalf of Onesimus, who is my own son in Christ; for while in prison I have become his spiritual father. 11 At one time he was of no use to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back to you now, and with him goes my heart. 13 I would like to keep him here with me, while I am in prison for the gospel's sake, so that he could help me in your place. 14 However, I do not want to force you to help me; rather, I would like for you to do it of your own free will. So I will not do anything unless you agree. 15 It may be that Onesimus was away from you for a short time so that you might have him back for all time. 16 And now he is not just a slave, but much more than a slave: he is a dear brother in Christ. How much he means to me! And how much more he will mean to you, both as a slave and as a brother in the Lord! 17 So, if you think of me as your partner, welcome him back just as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to my account. 19 Here, I will write this with my own hand: I, Paul, will pay you back (I should not have to remind you, of course, that you owe your very self to me.) 20 So, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord's sake; as a brother in Christ, cheer me up! 21 I am sure, as I write this, that you will do what I ask—in fact I know that you will do even more. 22 At the same time, get a room ready for me, because I hope that God will answer the prayers of all of you and give me back to you. 23 Epaphras, who is in prison with me for the sake of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings, 24 and so do my co-workers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. 25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Paul wants Philemon to treat his returning slave with kindness and love. Roman law allowed slaveowners to punish escaped slaves harshly. Onesimus may have run away because of a disagreement with Philemon. In this kind of situation, a slave might ask a trusted third party (like Paul) to intervene. What does this letter say about how Christians should treat one another? What can we learn from Paul’s example and the actions he took on behalf of Onesimus?
Lord of love, help me follow Paul’s example of advocating for those with less power than I have. May I serve as an instrument of peace and equality in the world. Amen.