OBSERVATION: (What does it say?)
This book was written by Paul to a dear friend and worker of his, Philemon. Philemon was a slave owner and Paul was returning Onesimus, his runaway slave, to him. Onesimus had runaway after stealing from him. Paul spent some time with Onesimus, led him to Christ and is now bringing him back to Philemon. He is pleading with him not to punish him, but rather to treat him as a brother, especially now that he has accepted salvation in Jesus Christ. (Reference for background info is: gotquestions.org/bookofPhilemon)
UNDERSTANDING: (What does it mean)
Something I continue to notice about Paul is how much he loves the people he leads and serves. The way he pleads with Philemon and appeals to him as his brother with love instead of harsh authority proves this (see vss. 8-9). Also the way he pleads for him to accept Onesimus back with grace, love and forgiveness also proves this.
Paul understood this type of forgiveness first hand. He used to persecute Christians when he was Saul, but after receiving salvation, he became a completely different man. I believe Paul chose to be Onesimus' advocate because he witnessed the same type of change and regeneration in Onesimus that he experienced as a result of faith in Jesus Christ. Because Onesimus had become part of the family of Christ and had experienced the grace and love of God, Paul wanted Philemon to extend that same type of grace to him.
Who do we need to extend grace, love and forgiveness to today? We are not slave owners like Philemon was, but we all have authority over people whether we are married, parents to children, supervise a team at work, a leader in the church, or spreading the Gospel to the lost. May we never lose sight of the fact that because we are servants of Jesus Christ, we are called to treat our family and those Christ has blessed us to have leadership over, with love, forgiveness and respect. That's what Jesus (our Master) does for us everyday. He loved and served us to the point of laying down his life for us. Thank you Jesus and may your example encourage us to do the same with the people you have called us to lead. Amen.