Getting Forgiveness | Onesimus needed to be forgiven. He was a bondservant who stole from his employer, Philemon, and then fled when he couldn’t afford to pay him back . When he was on the run, however, he met Paul and then Jesus . Following his conversion, he needed to reconcile his relationship with Philemon. So Paul wrote a letter to Philemon on Onesimus’ behalf and told Onesimus to deliver to Philemon . Pastor Mark Dever writes, “Can you imagine the former slave standing in the doorway as his former employer opens the door – needing forgiveness, helpless to repay, cared for only by someone far away in prison?” 
Giving Forgiveness | When the door opened, there stood Onesimus. Before him was Philemon, who was a wealthy and prominent church leader and friend of Paul. In Onesimus’ hands, however, was a letter asking Philemon to welcome Onesimus back into his home. Yet how could Philemon do this? Not only would he struggle with trusting Onesimus again, he would also risk being seen as weak (by his culture that didn’t value forgiveness as a virtue) and easy on crime (by his other servants who might take advantage of his mercy). Paul knew, however, that forgiving Onesimus would cost Philemon something and, therefore, he wrote, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge it to my account” . In other words, “Indebtedness must be taken into account and, therefore, I will settle the bill.”
Saving Forgiveness | Yet extending forgiveness is worth more than merely receiving back a payment owed. Philemon’s own appreciation of his salvation was at stake. As Paul wrote, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ” . In other words, by sharing his faith – in the form of forgiveness – with Onesimus, Philemon himself would gain a fuller understanding of what Christ had done for him on the cross.
Prayer | Lord, We – like Onesimus – come before you with nothing to offer but a sinful record. We sin against you and then run away from you. Yet Christ is our letter of justification. We stand on his record. As we recognize this, help us to forgive others and, thereby, gain a fully understanding of your forgiveness. Amen.