10. I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. 12. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13. whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.
The book of Philemon is a very interesting one. In a single chapter we find a book pregnant with spiritual truth. It is a book of grace, love, forgiveness, restoration, and relationship. This book, more than any other, zeroes in on the lives of specific people and explores their relationship. Onesimus was a slave who stole from his master Philemon and fled to Rome where he come into contact with Paul. Onesimus was won to Christ under Paul’s ministry in Rome. This letter is Paul’s request for Philemon to receive Onesimus back to himself. The word Onesimus means “profitable”. Paul states that at one time, in his lost condition, Onesimus was not profitable. But now, in Christ, he is profitable. He can be, and was, useful to the kingdom. Finally, he could live up to his name.
The elements in the book of Philemon; grace, love, forgiveness, restoration, relationship mirror the elements the believer enjoys in Christ. Prior to Christ, we were unprofitable. We were not of any use to the kingdom. We were incapable in making a difference in the world for Christ. After our new birth, we become profitable. We are useful to the kingdom. We are now capable of making a difference in this sin-stained world. Philemon forgave Onesimus. Jesus has forgiven us. Onesimus was restored in the eyes of his master Philemon. Through the blood of Christ we have been restored to a right relationship with God.
What do you think our churches would look like if we stood up for other believers and affirmed the Lord’s working in their lives the way Paul did with Onesimus? What do you think our churches would look like if we were as eager and ready to forgive each other as Philemon was to forgive Onesimus? What do you think our churches would look like if we were able to be as open with each other as Paul was with Philemon? Something to think about.