"Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say." Philemon 1:21
I had a conversation with a good friend about forgiveness, and this story was mentioned by him. I disagreed with him and even told him he's wrong in his view of this story. I went to church, and in the Bible study, this story came up. It wasn't a coincidence. I knew right away God was showing me what I told my friend was right on. We always have to remember that we need to study the word to understand what is being said. We can't just make up our own interpretation of what it means. It doesn't work that way.
Paul here was writing to Philemon to send Onesimus back. Let me be clear, very clear. He wasn't sending him back to be a slave. He was sending him back as a brother to Philemon having confidence in him to obey and do even more that he asked of him to let Onesimus go. To set him free. Paul never intended for Onesimus to go back to slavery. Paul was against slavery. But there was a law so Paul went to the heart of the matter.
Paul understood that Philemon would do what was right in the eyes of God. Look at how he penned those words, "Having confidence in your obedience." Acknowledging that really, he was expecting him to obey the word of God. Next, setting the stage and letting him know, "I know that you will do even more than what I say." This had nothing to do with obeying Paul, this had everything to do with obeying God. There was a practice that was in humane. This is where culture stops at the cross. Just because the world has certain practices it does not give us permission to do what is evil in the sight of God. We need to, "Do even more than what it is said to us."
Two very important things to remember and meditate on today.
Onesimus was a slave. ( a terrible, evil as evil gets practice) this man found Christ while he was on the run through Paul while he was in prison. Paul understood what prison meant; he was in it and could identify with him. Onesimus repented and agreed to go back to his slave master. Not even knowing what his fate would mean. I ask, would you go back to a life of slavery, beatings, and torture? Hard question to answer. However, God had already set the stage for Onesimus miraculous deliverance. He just had to trust, and do things God's way. Onesimus knew he had fled, who could blame him? You and I would have done the same thing. However, it was still against the law. When caught he could have been killed. Onesimus met Paul, accepted the gospel message, and acknowledged that he still had to obey the law regardless. Paul saw great strength, humbleness, and true repentance. Please catch this, "True, and real, repentance." This is where people either make it or loose it. A person who truly repents, owns up to their own mistakes, and goes back to fix them, is the person who will succeed.
Philemon had all authority, as sick as that was, to condemn or forgive, to keep him in prison or set him free, to view him as a brother or as a slave, to obey Paul or disobey. Ultimately would he do things God's way, or what culture allowed?
Two people, two different opinions, and a law that had to be overcome.
Listen, God is the God of the impossible. We either follow Godly advice and obey, or we follow our emotions, thoughts, and disobey. No mater how you slice it or dice, it we make decisions based on God's way or our way.
So, what's my point? God honors obedience His way, not ours. He is the only One who truly knows and understands the intent of every heart. He has a way out, more incredible than what you think, imagine, or conceive. You cannot ever go wrong doing things God's way. It really has nothing to do with what our cultural upbringing says. Man made rules and regulations, almost all of the time, are contrary to the laws of God. Choose God's way. His way will not fail you!
Rev. Dr. Teresa Allissa Citro
Founder and President of Thread of Hope, Inc.