Letting Go

Historians believe Roman society consisted of up to 40% of the population living under the bondage of slavery. It’s hard for us to put ourselves in the context of a society like that as most, if not all, of us have never nor ever will be enslaved.

In Roman society, slaves were part of everyday life and made-up Roman culture. They were deemed as one notch below humanity.


It was in this context that the slave, Onesimus, ran away from his master, Philemon, and found his way to Paul. In Paul’s appeal to Philemon to forgive and free Onesimus, we find an example not only of how we should treat others but also of how we have been shown forgiveness ourselves.

Philemon was a beloved brother serving in a leadership role in the church at Colossae. Paul doesn’t flatter him to soften him up for the big ask, Paul is serious about his high regard for his friend. Paul continues by reminding Philemon that for the Christian, mercy triumphs over judgment.

In verse 8, Paul transitions to the main idea: in light of Philemon’s Christian character, Paul encourages Philemon to do the right thing and grant Onesimus freedom.

Philemon was likely shocked to see the mention of Onesimus, his former slave. Paul acknowledges that Onesimus had been useless to Philemon but something had changed, he was now useful. In fact, Onesimus’ name literally means useful. He hadn’t lived up to that name but Jesus had a plan, and Onesimus soon would. Not only is he now useful, but Paul says he is a brother in Christ.

In verse 15 Paul makes it clear that the Onesimus standing before Philemon, his family, and the church at Colossae was not the same young man who ran away. He had been saved by the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ and had proved himself a faithful, devoted minister of the gospel in Rome.

Having explained Onesimus’ transformation, Paul appeals to Philemon to grant Onesimus not only forgiveness, but freedom also. Paul expected Philemon to accept Onesimus as he would accept Paul, as a beloved brother. Freedom would have extended beyond Philemon’s obligation which may be why Paul doesn’t actually outright ask for Onesimus’ freedom but does so between the lines.

This short book contains a powerful example of Paul’s selfless, Christlike intercession on behalf of another. It’s also a profound testimony of the transforming power of God’s grace in the life of a redeemed sinner.

A Reminder:
  • Every one of us was once a fugitive
  • Our guilt was great and the penalty severe
  • Grace gives us mercy and an advocate in Christ
  • Our debt has been paid by Jesus
  • Our rightful owner accepts us back and adopts us into His family

2 LESSONS ON FORGIVENESS

1. What hurt you doesn’t have to hold you

It’s time to live free and embrace your identity in Christ as a free person. Let the grace of God that freed you from God’s wrath free you from unforgiveness.
Forgiving someone that hurt you isn’t saying it didn’t happen; forgiveness isn’t denial. When you let go of what hurt you, you are more able to fully embrace the freedom Christ gives you as you go into the future. You’ve got to give grace and free yourself from the prison of unforgiveness. If not, it leads to bitterness.

2. The enemy is an impotent liar

The next time the accusation comes your way, the next time the enemy tries to tell you that you’re no good, you tell that devil to get lost!! Tell him Jesus has forgiven you by his blood. He who the Son sets free is free indeed!
Pastor Chris Williams
To learn more about Pastor Chris and his teaching, visit us on the web at fcfamily.org  and make sure you subscribe to receive these biweekly encouragements in your inbox.

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