Grace | Philemon 1:8-25
Philemon 1:8-25 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Some things cannot be forced. Grace is one of them. Although it was in his authority as an apostle and spiritual father, Paul stopped short of ordering Philemon to extend grace to Onesimus, his runaway slave. Instead, the apostle’s appeal is based in love. Onesimus was once your slave, Paul reasons; now, having trusted in Christ, he returns “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” Paul makes it clear that a deep bond has been formed with Onesimus. He describes him as his “very heart”, and “a brother in the Lord.” “Welcome him as you would welcome me”, Paul says. And I love this one, “if he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”
Grace is just one of those things that can’t be forced. It is a free offering that extends beyond what we deserve. It mercifully holds back what we have coming to us. Grace stands with welcoming arms. Grace accepts with a wide-open heart. However, don’t forget that grace, although free, is not cheap. It was purchased fully and completely by Jesus. Grace doesn’t turn a blind eye toward our sin; it provides a Sin-Bearer. Grace doesn’t ignore justice; it punishes a Substitute. Grace does not sweep our misdeeds under a rug; it covers them over with the blood of Christ. Grace is not about compromise; it is about the cross.
Paul’s appeal to Philemon was an appeal of grace. You see, grace receivers are to be grace givers.
Father, may the grace we extend to others be from a heart that understands the price Jesus paid to extend grace to us. In His Name, Amen.