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“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philemon 25).
Onesimus ran away from Philemon. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon and the Onesimus Paul sent back was much more useful to Philemon than the unconverted Onesimus (v. 11). What happened to Onesimus? God made him a new creation: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17).
The love of Christ now controlled Onesimus. Due to that grace-filed miracle, Christians were to recognize him no longer according to his old fleshly nature (II Cor. 5:16).
In Paul’s letter to Philemon, God’s Apostle called upon Philemon to contradict the social and economic order of the day. Paul instructed Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in the Lord (v. 16). Onesimus should be welcomed back into Philemon’s earthly family. The Christian ethic did then and does now transcend cultural traditions and fallen man’s institutions.
Nevertheless, Philemon’s position in his family and community should not be treated lightly. Philemon had been wronged. Onesimus most probably broke several laws. Many folks in Philemon’s community would be looking to see how he would react to Onesimus’ return. Based upon the laws of that society, how would Philemon address his own pride after he had been so dishonored?
Pride is a complicated vice. It is a spiritual cancer eating away at the souls of all men. John Chrysostom described pride as “the mother of hell.” Philemon knew it was better for him to be broken before God, than to be respected among men. Nonetheless, it was a tough decision – but then, tough decisions make the bow of the Christian soul taut.
Where would Philemon find the strength to set aside his pride and forgive Onesimus for his crime(s)? Grace is the only known conqueror of pride. Though the law condemned Onesimus, he could be rescued, forgiven and restored by grace.
Christ-like grace is always gifted without conditions. There are no strings attached to godly grace. God’s kind of grace cannot depend upon the worthiness of its recipient. Your Lord’s grace is tethered to the character of the one offering the grace. The character of the Christian (Philemon) is the character of the Christ (Jesus). Philemon could exercise God’s grace via God’s strength (Phil. 4:13).
God’s grace is so amazing!