Paul appeals to Philemon to receive back his runaway slave. What was so ‘awkward’ about this request? Runaway slaves were usually tortured, or even killed as a lesson to other slaves. Philemon had every right under the legal system of the day while others (especially slave-owners) may also expect him to treat Onesimus harshly.
Beyond Social Expectations
Paul told of how precious Onesimus has been to his ministry after his conversion. But to be fair to Philemon, he is sending Onesimus back. Paul even says maybe it was a good thing that someone more valuable than just another unwilling slave. Philemon is receiving back a slave AND a brother in Christ. So Paul is saying, “Hey, don’t just ‘not kill’ Onesimus, but welcome him back with joy.”
Wow, berani lah Paul ask this of Philemon! (or How dare Paul ask this of Philemon!)
No ‘Limits’ to Love in Christ
But the ‘power’ behind his request was love. Not his apostolic authority, nor the fact he is the ‘spiritual father’ of Philemon. Paul is even willing to pay back what Philemon was cheated off so that there can be no other reason not to receive Onesimus. Philemon’s previous record of faith and love for the brothers and sisters in Christ convinced Paul that he would act in a manner pleasing to him.
The world teaches us that love has its ‘limits’. It should be ‘returned’. It has ‘conditions’, it has ‘boundaries’. What about CHRIST’s love? His love crosses boundaries; sets no conditions; able to love anyone regardless of status and past history.
Can we go beyond the world’s standards of grace and love…to exercising CHRIST’s standards of GRACE and LOVE?