Philemon's Legacy

Patrick Melson on October 4, 2010 Comments (14)

WHAT do you do when you have been mistreated?  If it is by someone who is an enemy, it is not much of a surprise.  Christ tells us to love our enemies, they do not know what they are doing, they are blinded, we can show them the light, even love them into the family of God.  But what if it is by someone who knows you and the integrity of your character?  What if they are close to you, a trusted friend, a fellow Christian, what if they lied to you or maybe even stole from you?  What do you do then? 

There is an abundance of Scripture that speaks of loving the brethren, of bearing with one another, of forgiving one another, which clearly must include difficult circumstances and mistreatment.  There are also verses which speak of maintaining the unity of the body, that the body made up of many parts is made to function together, with each doing its part (Eph 4).  Even some of Christ's last words, his prayer in John 17, includes three times a prayer for unity "That all of them may be one" in verse 21, "that they may be one as we are one," verse 22, and verse 23 adds "May they be brought to complete unity."  If Christ prayed thus in his last hours, then unity is not only desired, but is important, entirely important, necessary on a global scale, "to let the world know" that God sent Christ and loved him and his followers.  Without preaching a single word, believers would have a testimony through their unity.

Philemon was known for his love for his fellow Christians (verses 4, 7), one of the most obvious Christian virtues, and yet Paul encourages him to continue acting like a Christian with Onesimus.  With him?  His slave who mistreated him, betrayed his trust, and by all indications, stole from him?  Would he respond harshly, elevate his rights, condemn Onesimus under the full measure of the law?  Paul had higher hopes for Philemon.  Without minimizing the faults of Onesimus, a unity, a restoration is encouraged and expected.  Deal with the wrongs done, but look beyond them to a restored relationship, look beyond to see that the power of the Gospel not only restores our eternal souls but our injured ones as well.  The Gospel that saves is also the Gospel that restores broken relationships, that is Philemon's legacy.



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  1. Cheryl Jongeneel September 26, 2011

    Though our knowledge of Onesimus life is limited, it can be fairly speculated historically that his conversion to Christ, his presence with Paul in his time of trouble and his willingness to return to his slave master were crucial in spreading the gospel of Christ in this region. The forgiveness which came from the obedient loving heart of his master who had also become a Christian was astonishing to every other slave and robber that heard it. We can firmly believe that these testimonies were of God and used by God to reach multitudes in the area. Praise God for His great leadership in our lives, even when we are not aware of how powerful our lives are as we serve.

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