The book of Philemon in the bible is really a personal letter from the apostle Paul to his friend and fellow believer in Christ. Onesimus was a slave to Philemon who had stolen from him and run away. He later mets Paul and is converted to Christ and now Paul is sending him back to Philemon.
This is really a beautiful letter where Paul makes the “appeal to you (Philemon) on the basis of love” to receive Onesimus back with forgiveness. For being one of the shortest books of the bible, it is deep with themes of faith, love, grace and forgiveness.
I can’t help but wonder how this all played out from Onesimus’ point of view. “Legally” he was in all kinds of trouble for sure. I’m not sure what the full extent of the law would have been in those times, but it is pretty safe to assume it was not good. When he decided to steal and run away he had no intention of ever returning. He meets Paul along the way and learns of Christ’s gospel and salvation from sin. He becomes so close to Paul that he is described as being “of my very heart”. Wow, what would that have looked like to know the Apostle Paul so closely? So there is this dramatic change from being a thief to attending to Paul in prison. How did Onesimus piece together the events of his life to try and make any order of it? He probably couldn’t, and that the point of looking at this letter from his perspective.
I know that I look at so many things in my life and don’t understand the “why” of it all. I struggle to arrive at particular life destinations or goals. But in this book of Philemon, the “perhaps the reason” was that God had a great work to do in Onesimus’ life. So when the waters of life seem murky and I wonder “what’s the point”, let me be reminded of Onesimus and how God is doing a great work in me and for His cause.