Philemon 1: Eternal Brothers
The book of Philemon provides an interesting perspective on what is truly important. Onesimus had run away from his master Philemon, but he had met Paul and became a Christian. Paul was now sending him back to Philemon with this letter. Philemon was probably rather upset by this, but in this letter, it is clear that Paul is trying to show him what really should matter to him.
Phm 1:15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
Phm 1:16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
Philemon could have potentially been upset in this situation, so Paul seems to be trying to stop that concern right from the beginning. He understood that Onesimus had run away, but now that he had become a Christian, there was a transformed relationship.
As Christians, we are part of a family. Family members do hurt each other every now and then, but there is also forgiveness there. Even though perhaps Onesimus had hurt Philemon in some way when he ran away, that really was not important now. Later in the letter, Paul offered to personally offset any cost that had arisen out of the situation, and he was more concerned that Philemon would be willing to recognize the transformation of Onesimus.
I think about this in our lives. Think about someone who hurt you in the past. Perhaps later in life that person became a follower of Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is that someday you are going to be standing side-by-side with that person in heaven praising our Lord. If you are both followers of Jesus Christ, then that is a reality. If you can’t live with them here on earth, then there is something wrong.
Paul did not want Philemon to throw out Onesimus he wanted him to think about the significance of his conversion to Christ. He was now a brother, and that type of situation has eternal consequences.