10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.
11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
Paul wrote this letter to Philemon to reintroduce a runaway slave of the latter - Onesimus (means useful). It is said that there were 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire during those days. And the ones who ran away from their master were treated mercilessly - like marking their forehead with a hot iron or worse, crucified to die. Onesimus was fortunate enough to reach Paul while he (Paul) was imprisoned in Rome and that changed his life. Being a disciple of Jesus, he became "useful", true to his name (v11).
God commanded the Israelites to treat their slaves fairly and the good ones were treated with dignity. But for Onesimus here, his reputation was bad. Probably theft (as vs 18-19 suggests), laziness (vs11) and adding to all that, running away from the master through deceptive means. All that Philemon could think about his slave was to inflict the maximum punishment.
Oh, but when Onesimus got an opportunity to change his life in Jesus' name,he grabbed it!. How often do you dwell on your past (Isaiah 43:18) ? Do you think you have someone like Paul in your life who can help turn your worthless past into a priceless future? How vulnerable are you to change?
Onesimus wanted to go back to his native place and to his master to set thing right, leaving behind his newly found, though wrongly accquired freedom and comforts in Rome. That was very risky yet at the same time, very heroic - Scripturally. (Matthew 5:9)
Another unsung hero in this story is Philemon, who was willing to let go of his hurts and rights, and was willing to accept his runaway slave Onesimus as a dear brother. Philemon was expected not only to forgive his offender but also was commanded to accept this black sheep. Do you think it would've been easy for them both?
Like them, there are unsung heroes in the Church even today who lets go of an offence , forgive a hurt - keeping their focus steadily on bringing glory to Jesus - and continually striving to save souls.
I believe, in the coming days, the persecution which destroys the Church would come from within in the form of unresolved relationships, issues and hurts. Do you have one like that? Do you see it destroying you already? Who do you think you can get help from?
Let us become real heroes with true courage and convictions- who would do whatever it righteously takes to resolve issues before the sun goes down ,in order to make the Church glorious. (Ephesians 4:26)