“Hi, Pastor Sal, is it?” A tentative voice asked over the phone, it continued, “It’s me, Oliver, from the concert last week, do you remember me?”
“I do Sonny, I said you could call me anytime if you needed anything. Are you alright?” Pastor Sal repplied.
“Well, it’s just that message you preached outside sort of hit me where it hurts. I’ve been reading up everything I can. I’m real interested, but I’m in real deep too. You see, I’ve worked for a rich man by the name of Phil Moen pretty much all my life. We had an argument last month, I can’t remember what about, but I took off from work with a few hundred dollars he had lying around, just to make it sting a little, you know? I spent every dollar of that money too, the last of it for that concert. Anyway, he’s a Christian, a real leader in the community, and I feel that I’ve got to make it right somehow. I’ll do anything. Can you help me out?” Oliver requested.
Pastor Sal let loose a whistle and then he stated, “That’s one mighty big problem you’ve got there, I happen to know Phil from way back. I’ll tell you what, I’ll give him a call and see what I can do on your behalf. In the mean time, try not to get yourself into any deeper trouble while I’m sorting things out. Oh, and pray – that always helps.”
Growing up, Philemon was sort of the odd chapter out. It was short and not really relevant, after all, we don’t have slavery any more. Not in the traditional sense. So I’d never heard much preaching on it. Too bad, because it’s quite appliciable. It’s easy to say ‘forgive’ when you have nothing to forgive. It’s harder to say ‘forgive’ (much harder to actually forgive) when you’re looking right at the guy who took from you, betrayed your trust, and fled in the dead of night. Perhaps that’s why we aren’t told how Onesimus wronged Philemon. Because reguardless of their relationship to one another, it’s easier to stay mad than to forgive a new brother in the faith. What if you just substitute the relationship for another, what if it wasn’t master and slave but father and son? older and younger brother? cousins? Sometimes we get ourselves into such deep trouble that we need a third person to reach the offended party. Sometimes even Christians need mediators to help them forgive and be forgiven. Let us not forget though, that we’re all Onesimus as much as we’re all Philemon who have wronged others and need forgiveness as much as we need to give it.
Philemon 1:1-25, “1Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
4I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Paul’s Plea for Onesimus
8Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— 16no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
17So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
22And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
23Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
25The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”