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Towards the back of the New Testament you will find the very
short book of Philemon. It takes little time to read this book. In
this book we meet Onesimus, a runaway slave. It is hard for us to
imagine the gravity of this offense as it would be viewed in Roman
times, but here's how they would have seen it:
First, Onesimus would've been viewed as a thief and a traitor — a
man who had betrayed his master and stolen from him as well.
His punishment when caught would probably have included being
branded on the forehead, to mark him as a runaway, and castration.
Paul meets Onesimus in Rome, and brings him to Christ. He sends
Onesimus back with this letter, asking Philemon to take Onesimus
back. Philemon is a rich man, and could probably afford to cover
whatever theft Onesimus had made. He could have absorbed the cost.
But Paul does not ask him to do that.
What does Paul ask? He asks Philemon to take Onesimus back, and
as to the matter of whatever Onesimus might owe Philemon he takes a
different tack. He tells Philemon to charge it to Paul. Onesimus is
now his Christian brother, and he could have appealed to Philemon on
the basis of that to be forgiving. Instead, he tells him to put it
on Paul's credit card, so to speak. In so doing, Paul is showing us
the imitation of Christ. He is doing what his Master has done.
This is just what Christ did for us: he said, "charge it to me."
He did this at Calvary, where he paid for our sins. We meet around
the communion table to remember that event. In so doing we should
bless his name for what he has done for us; thank him for the great
gift he has given us. But more than that; in response to his love we
should, like Paul, go and do likewise.
So I encourage you today to examine yourself. Is there someone in
your life who cannot repay what you have done? Is there someone in
your life who cannot make amends for what they have done? If so,
imitate your Lord and say, "charge it to me." You will be forgiving
little on behalf of the One who forgave much.