I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. . . . I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Philemon 10,12–14
Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, somehow found his way to Paul and wound up serving Paul during one of Paul’s imprisonments. From this letter we can gather that Philemon was a convert of Paul’s, and thus in Paul’s debt. For some reason Paul wound up sending Onesimus back to his master with this letter requesting that Philemon free Onesimus from slavery. This is an odd request, because Paul openly advocated that slaves dutifully and contentedly serve their masters as if they were serving Jesus Christ himself. But Paul went to great lengths to advocate freedom for Onesimus. What is most impressive is that Paul clearly insisted on being up front about his desire for Onesimus to be free. I suspect Paul could have kept Onesimus in his care without telling Philemon. Or, Paul could have unapologetically kept Onesimus as compensation for all Paul had done for Philemon. Paul, however, chose to be above board in regard to his request. He returned the slave, made his request, and trusted that Philemon would respond faithfully. For Paul, there were no shortcuts, no cutting corners, and no deceptive dealings when living out faith. To be righteous means to be up front about all our human dealings. Secrets, dark dealings and whispered words behind someone’s back are not the marks of a Christian. All things are to be done in the light. Even when presented with challenging circumstances, we should be able to conduct ourselves and our business in plain sight of the world.
Are you upfront, direct, and transparent in your dealings with others?
Lord, I confess that I often make choices that I would not want others to witness. I can make determinations without involving everyone I should in the decision-making process. It is easier to keep my own council than to allow all my dealings to be done in ways that invite scrutiny. Help me to be more up front in my interactions with others. Help me to take the right road instead of the path of least resistance. Help me to live my life in the light for all to see. In Jesus’ name, I pray. AMEN.