Paying the price of forgiveness
Forgiveness is often tough. C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone says that forgiveness is a wonderful idea, until he has something to forgive.” Someone has to swallow the pain of having been hurt. Philemon is a letter that showcases the cost of asking for and of granting forgiveness.
Through Paul’s ministry Onesimus had come to faith in Jesus while a runaway slave. In that day, most runaway slaves, if caught, faced harsh punishment and sometimes even death. Philemon, Onesimus’ master, was also a Christian and Paul’s close friend. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter in hand in order that their broken relationship might be repaired—for they were now brothers in Christ.
This is the briefest of all of Paul’s writings, and one of the most magnificent illustrations of grace and forgiveness in the Bible. Paul’s deep concern for reconciliation calls us to apply these same principles of love and compassion to our own relationships. As we also stand in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, it’s a welcome declaration of the cleansing available to us all through Jesus, our mediator who has come to set us free with his offer of forgiveness!
The apostle Paul wrote from prison in Rome about AD 60–62.
Philemon, a wealthy Christian in the church at Colosse, who may have become a believer through Paul’s ministry (verse 19).
During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome (AD 59–62), he met Onesimus, a runaway slave, and led him to faith in Jesus (verse 10). Onesimus might have been a great help to him, but Paul chose to send him back to his master, Philemon. Paul wrote this letter to ask Philemon to forgive his former slave.
Paul’s letter to Philemon contains only his side of the dialogue, so all the SourceView text is in black. A cursive script was used to display the letter to recreate the original handwritten feel of this personal document.