My plea is that you show kindness to Onesimus. I think of him as my own son because he became a believer as a result of my ministry here in prison. - Philemon 1:10
Some people are task oriented, while others are people oriented. While we all have our inclinations and proclivities, we all need to be both task and people oriented, to an extent. A well-rounded life is one in which the things that need to be done get done. This includes seeing that the relationships that should be nurtured get nurtured.
For the most part, Paul was task oriented; his stated ambition was “to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard” (Rom. 15:20), and he pursued that ambition relentlessly. Nevertheless, he also poured himself into developing and maintaining lasting relationships.
Paul’s relationship with Philemon, the godly Colossian businessman, is a case in point. Perhaps Philemon had treated Onesimus in ways that fractured their relationship. Or perhaps Onesimus simply longed to run his own life. Whatever the case, now Paul asked Philemon to “show kindness to Onesimus” (v. 10), to restore their broken relationship. In asking this, Paul was relying heavily on his own relationship with Philemon.
Some people do things that break the peace. Those of us who have been disappointed at times with our efforts at peacemaking may be inclined to ask, Why should I expend a lot of effort in trying to make peace between people who aren’t interested? Two answers are readily available. First, “As members of one body you are all called to live in peace” (Col. 3:15). Second, “God wants his children to live in peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). God has made peace with those who are his children, and their lives should be characterized by peaceful relationships. God’s deep desire for his children is that they should not be known as contentious people but as peace-makers. This is reason enough for us to expend the energy.
Not everybody will be responsive to our peacemaking overtures. Scripture takes this into account and instructs us, “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible” (Rom. 12:18). Here is a recognition that not all attempts at peacemaking will succeed; but it is also a clear directive for us to do our part. Even Jesus did not have success with those who were in total opposition to him, but that did not deter him from giving himself to the task of reaching out to them. His responsibility was to reach out. They were responsible for their own failure to respond.
There is no shortage of peace breakers. We need people who, like Paul, will be peace brokers.
For Further Study: Philemon 1:1-25