Read: who previously was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. Phil 1:11
Examine: Onesimus was the fugitive slave of Philemon, the apostle Paul’s friend. Onesimus had robbed his master Philemon and fled to Rome. Onesimus encountered Paul in Rome’s prison. Onesimus became a Christian probably due to the encounter with Paul, for the scripture says: “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains” (Philemon 1:10).
Scripture says “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” The name Onesimus means “helpful,” “useful,” or “profitable”. Before salvation, Onesimus had been useless or unprofitable to Philemon, but now he had become immensely beneficial to both his master and to Paul. As a believer in Jesus Christ, Onesimus lived up to his name.
On behalf of Onesimus, Paul, still imprisoned in Rome, wrote his letter to Onesimus’s master, Philemon. The apostle pleaded with Philemon to accept Onesimus back, not as a slave but as a believer and a brother in Christ. Paul cared deeply for Onesimus because the young man had been a great blessing to him. Onesimus had been so helpful that Paul longed for him to stay at his side: “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” (Philemon 1:12–14).
The heart of Paul’s plea to Philemon is summed up in verses 15–19: “…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
Application: Forgiveness and reconciliation are spotlighted in the life of Onesimus and the book of Philemon. Paul challenges Philemon to receive Onesimus back in the same way he would welcome Paul, as a brother and a partner in the gospel. And Paul promises to pay back anything Onesimus owed.
Decision: Oh Lord! help me to be like Paul, the great heart of a father to stand in the gap for a runaway slave. Also, be like Onesimus who showed boldness to go back to Philemon, it might have caused his life, and be like Philemon, who had the openness of heart to accept a wronged slave.