November 6 – Prison Letters – A Long & Difficult Trip

Read Philemon 1-25

Some of the longest and most difficult trips I have ever made have only been ones across town or to the other side of the room.  These are journeys not measured in terms of miles or hours, but in terms of humility in asking forgiveness from or extending grace to someone else.  Those are not easy trips to make!  And yet, God might prompt you to make one of those trips today.  Those trips are portrayed in this, the last of the prison letters written by Paul.

One of the primary characters in this brief letter is a slave by the name of Onesimus.  Onesimus had been an unbeliever who served as a slave in the home of Philemon in or near the Turkish city of Colosse.  Apparently, Onesimus had been virtually useless (v. 11).  In fact, it seems very possible that he had stolen money or caused damage at his master’s home (v. 13).  This slave had, then, run away and run into the apostle Paul in a Roman prison (v. 1).

While in prison, Paul had the privilege of seeing this obstinate slave come to Christ (v. 10).  The change that took place in the slave’s life was incredible.  This man, useless to Philemon as an unbeliever, became, as a follower of Christ, useful to the apostle.  This man became very special to Paul (v. 12)…so much so that Paul would have loved to keep him as a helper (v. 13).  But Paul realized that two trips were more important than the help he might receive from this man in his newfound faith:

  1. For Onesimus, a trip from a Roman prison to Philemon’s doorstep- Paul was sending Onesimus back to care for some unfinished business (v. 12).  Onesimus had burned some relational bridges with his master.  In humility, he needed to make the long trip back to seek Philemon’s forgiveness.  Do you need to humbly ask someone today for forgiveness?
  2. For Philemon, a trip from his living room to his front door- Paul was asking Philemon to “welcome” Onesimus (v. 17).  Philemon needed to forgive.  Forgiveness essentially means that you will no longer hold a violation against another person.  Do you need to graciously extend forgiveness to someone today?

God can strengthen you for either or both of those long, difficult trips.  Take the first step.

Steve Kern

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