In this letter, Paul is trying to convince Philemon to welcome back Onesimus, a runaway slave. He reminds Philemon of their shared history and praises him for his faithful discipleship and evangelism. Paul urges Philemon to not only forgive Onesimus any debts he may owe, but to welcome him back as a brother.
A cynical read of this letter might lead us to believe that Paul is being a bit manipulative – that he’s buttering Philemon up before asking a favor. And in case flattery doesn’t work, he drops in the line in vs. 19, “I say nothing about your owing me even your own self.” I wonder if instead, Paul is reminding Philemon of what it means to live the life of Christ – one of forgiveness, of welcome, and of freedom. Rather than using his authority to get what he wants, Paul essentially says, “Look, this is who you are: loving, faithful, and encouraging. Because of this, I trust you to make the better choice.”
How do you tend to get your way? Do you manipulate, steam roll, or state your case and let it rest at that? To what degree are you willing to trust others, especially if their decisions aren’t what you think is best? To what degree do you trust God when outcomes don’t match with what you want?
Today, consider a decision that is before you. It might be something in your personal life or in the church or in an organization you are a part of. In prayer, offer this decision to God, ask for the wisdom to state your case well and for the peace to trust that no matter the outcome, all will be well.