vv 10-12 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.
Onesimus was the runaway slave who ‘belonged’ to a Christian household. In Roman law, his owner, Philemon, had the right to have him executed. As Paul writes, Onesimus hadn’t been much use to Philemon, but he had been of great value to Paul whilst he was prison. Onesimus had experienced a great turnaround in his life as he became a follower of Jesus, and Paul now asks Philemon to have him back as a Christian brother. It was a risky request in view of Onesimus’ legal status as a runaway slave. It is hard to imagine how Onesimus felt as he journeyed back to the family that ‘owned’ him. Would this newly-found Christian faith be sufficient to avert all punishment? Could Philemon really regard Onesimus as a brother-in-Christ? Of course, we don’t actually know what happened when the two came face to face. How did Philemon react? We like to think that Paul’s appeal to him was 100% successful and there was a new beginning in their relationship.
A shared faith is a great re-unifying factor in human relationships.
Today, pray for any relationships that need to be renewed in your own life and family.