“So welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account . . . I will repay it.” (Philemon 1:17, 18, 19b from Philemon 8-22)
I re-read what I wrote five years ago about this passage. Then I read what Albert Barnes said about it. Barnes made note (and said it better than I did) of Paul’s promise to repay to Philemon what ever loss was realized by Onesimus’ running away and absence. He said that this action and promise by Paul parallels that action Christ made on our behalf. Paul is not saying that he is now guilty of what ever Onesimus’ did, but he is willing to pay the penalty of it. Paul also reminds Philemon that Paul had done much on his behalf, so perhaps Philemon will count this toward his debt to Paul.
But as instructive and illuminating as this is, they way this verse relates to our triune theme is that even thought Onesimus might be guilty of some things, he is to be made welcome by his former master – the one he was indentured to and to whom he should have owed allegiance to. If Philemon is to welcome him as he would welcome Paul, to whom he is evidently in great debt to, how much more should we welcome and extend hospitality to others. Precisely, how much more? A kind word? More than that. A friendly smile? More than that? A firm handshake or hug? No, more than that too. We should welcome others as long-lost or not yet known friends. They should be made welcome to our homes and our hearts. In this last verse of this chapter, Paul asks Philemon to prepare a room for him – to offer him hospitality. No where does it say whether Philemon did this or not, but if he had been instructed in the Christian life by Paul, you can rest assured the room was ready for Paul’s arrival.
May you gentle reader extend a hardy to welcome to all who come into your circle of acquaintance. Selah! And shalom for all of us this day.