The Story of a Runaway

Bruce Hoffman

READ : Philemon 1:1-25

It’s been said that valuable things come in small packages! The Book of Philemon is a very small book and yet it relates to us the tremendous importance of practicing forgiveness toward those who have hurt us.

Onesimus was a slave of Philemon, a wealthy citizen of Colosse. Onesimus got the urge to run away to Rome. In God’s providence, Onesimus met the imprisoned Paul, who happened to be a good friend of Philemon. Onesimus became a Christian while in Rome with Paul. Becoming a Christian involves positive changes, including making right one’s sinful past behavior. Paul and Onesimus knew that Onesimus had to return to Philemon. Onesimus did so and carried Paul’s letter to Philemon with him.

Paul challenged Philemon to forgive Onesimus for running away and stealing his master’s assets to pay for the journey. This little letter is a gem of persuasive psychology used by Paul to oblige Philemon to pardon this runaway. We do not know the outcome. But I believe Philemon did heed Paul’s pleadings, forgave Onesimus and wel- comed him back . . . not primarily as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.

The teaching of the letter is that we must be eager to forgive those who ask us for forgiveness. It’s been said: “everyone is in favor of forgiving . . . until it’s your turn.” Are YOU forgiving as Christ forgave you?


Father, as You have forgiven us the debt we could never pay, help us to forgive others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.