(the book of Philemon has no "3:16"
|Paul was in this prison...ghastly|
The book of Philemon is a short letter written by Paula while he was in prison. Paul wrote this letter to his friend Philemon, asking him to forgive Onesimus and give him assistance. In this scripture the terminology "son" refers to the fact that Paul had led Onesimus to Christ; thus, Paul had "fathered" Onesimus in Christianity. Paul had also fathered Philemon in Christ many years earlier...
Paul and Onesimus met in prison. When they met, Onesimus was a runaway slave, and his master was Paul's old friend Philemon. Small world. Now, in this letter, Paul is asking Philemon to forgive this runaway slave and to take him in as a brother. Paul writes, "You both are now brothers in Christ. Forgive him - like Christ forgives you. Take him in. But not as a slave; as a brother. And, if he owes you anything, I will pay it." This reminds me of the story of "The Good Samaritan"; the good Samaritan not only immediately helped the injured man, he payed for several days of the mans care, and, returned a few days later to check on his progress. The story of the Good Samaritan can be read in Luke 10:30-37. It is a word picture, demonstrating the difference between selfishness and compassion in action.
Near the end of Paul's letter to Philemon, he writes, "Confident of your obedience, I write to you knowing that you will do even more than I ask." (Philemon 1:21)
The short book of Philemon reveals the characteristics of forgiveness at its best. Not only was Paul willing to help Onesimus by writing this letter, he was also willing to pay his debts. (Put your money where your mouth is!) And, he trusted Philemon to do the right thing as well.
Today it is very easy to walk past a situation and say, "I don't want to get involved." But, as Believers, we have a higher calling than theordinary person. Let us not be like sardines in a can... all lined up, looking alike, acting alike, being alike. But, we are called to be more Christlike... forgiveness, compassion, caring. Even if we think the other person doesn't "deserve" it. As one elderly lady said to me years ago, "If any of us got what we deserve, we'd all be in hell."