What a delightful little letter Paul wrote to his good friend and co-worker, Philemon. I’m so glad it wasn’t lost and that God chose to include it as part of scripture. It is close, personal and packed with friendly persuasion.
Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, ran away to Paul while he was in prison and ended up getting saved. Because he is now so useful to the gospel Paul would like to keep him around but instead is sending him back home to make everything right with his owner. Then he hopes Onesimus will be sent back to him voluntarily.
It might have been handled in a different manner. First of all, from our modern viewpoint we all see how evil slavery is so we would never consider sending a slave back. Plus, Paul is the spiritual elder of Philemon so he could certainly pull rank and simply send a note saying “he’s with me now.”
Instead Paul says; “but without your consent I did not want to do anything, that your goodness should not be as it were by compulsion, but of your own free will.” (Philemon 1:14) I have no doubt Philemon found Paul’s loving and humble appeal irresistible and that he ended up getting Onesimus back.
What a fabulous lesson for us in this age of “in your face” pushiness. The next time I really want to get my way, I shouldn’t start screaming for it. Instead, I hope I remember Paul’s way: friendly persuasion.