Inspiration from God’s Word: Onesimus – A Story of Forgiving Love


By Toni Ford

Paul was a prisoner in Rome, and his friend Philemon, who had been one of Paul’s co-workers in ministry and a dear friend, lived in Colosse. Along with his wife Apphia, Philemon led a dynamic and growing house church in Colosse. Although Paul had never visited the church in Colosse, the one thing he and Philemon had in common was a runaway slave named Onesimus. A former slave of Philemon, Onesimus had robbed his master and fled to Rome, hoping to escape forever. By events that only God could orchestrate, the fugitive Onesimus found himself imprisoned next to Paul. As a result, Paul had the opportunity to lead his fellow prisoner to the Lord.

According to Roman law, a slave who ran away could be punished by death. Paul, however, wrote his friend Philemon a letter encouraging him to forgive Onesimus and receive him back not as a runaway slave but as a brother in Christ! This was a huge request from Paul to take back a former slave that not only ran away but also stole from his master! However, Paul knew he was asking Philemon to respond to Onesimus in the same way Christ has responded to us. Christ is our ultimate example of forgiving love, and Paul and Philemon both had experienced His forgiveness and redemption in their own lives. Paul was demonstrating Christ’s love as he appealed and advocated for Onesimus, a runaway slave who in reality deserved death according to the law. I am so thankful that Jesus came to this earth to abolish the law and bring grace and mercy in its place!

Paul’s letter to Philemon is the shortest book he wrote, yet it carries one of the most powerful lessons for us as believers. Many refer to this book as “forgiving love.” Thousands of years later, God’s forgiving love is just as available to us today. He has given us this amazing letter to show us that He is a God of second chances, and just as God gives us second chances, we too should be willing like Philemon and Paul to give others who have sinned a second chance.

Oh Lord, thank you for forgiving me, loving me and being my God of second chances. Now please help me remember to do the same for others just as you have done for me! Lord, you are the perfect example of forgiving love, and we worship you today, thanking you for who you are!

If you would like for me to join you in prayer please email me at and I would love to pray for you.

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