Philemon 11-14: The Action of Forgiveness

That night, Taylor and I walked back to our dorm. Although we were side by side, neither of us spoke. What was there to say?

We both know we had wronged the other, but neither wanted to admit it.

Finally one of us (I can’t remember which) looked at the other and said, “What are we doing?” Immediately there was a release of tension, and both of us began going in on each other. We 11206097_10204395949075714_5964207448522600580_nbickered back and forth for what seemed like forever about how we were hurt. Just trying to be heard.

Finally we were in the building and getting ready to part ways. On the elevator ride up, Taylor looked at me and said, “I just don’t want to be mad at you anymore.”

So—like the girls we are—we cried all the way up to the fourteen floor.

In that moment, I realized something I had never fully grasped before. In worldly terms, I should have been mad at her. She should have been mad at me. We had both wronged each other, and there was no reason I should desire to fix our friendship so much.

But our relationship is more that what can be measured “in worldly terms”. I have a connection with Taylor not because we are involved in the same activities, or are the same age, or even have the same adoration of coffee. I have a connection with her because we were saved by the same Savior.

I had a choice to make. 


(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Philemon 11-14


Over the past two weeks we have unpacked the importance of forgiveness. This week we will understand why we forgive and how we should do so.

  1. We forgive because under the Gospel, we are one. (verse 11-12)

Paul begin verse 11 with a seemingly harsh statement: “Before he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and me.”

phonto-2Paul is demonstrating that through transformation of the Gospel, Onesimus is now a son of God’s grace. And through God’s grace, we are daughters. Before Christ, we are simply vessels waiting to be filled. Now, we have been adopted into a family of those rescued by his love.

As a born again believer, Onesimus, Philemon, and Paul share the same heart. They are now brothers, rather than acquaintances or counterparts. Paul makes it very clear to Philemon that the three are one united in Christ. If Philemon rejects Onesimus, he therefore rejects Paul’s “very heart”.

  1. Forgiveness is by a conscious decision (verse 13-14)

Paul makes it very clear that Philemon must take action. Paul could feasibly keep Onesimus around, but he needs Philemon to understand that the relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ are of great value. Therefore, Philemon should act of his “own accord”, or he should make the decision to forgive Onesimus. 

Forgiveness is not in fact forgiveness when we are forced into it. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 paints a picture of the one who is genuinely generous.


That bounty is not necessarily found in physical prosperity, but rather, the blessing of a brother or sister in Christ. By living in hatred for another person—or even indifference—we unknowingly deprive ourselves and them of the joy of a Christian friendship.

Paul paints this relationship as much more valuable than having Onesimus as a bondservant. Rather than having Onesimus to serve him, he can walk with him as a brother in Christ.

phonto-1Okay hold up. Most of us are never going to go through a situation like this. How does this relationship and our relationships look the same?

These points highlight something Christ has already revealed if you are a believer.

With the Holy spirit living inside of us, we know we should love others more than ourselves. We know that we will be spending eternity with others who have accepted Christ as their savior. We know, most of all, that we are representing Jesus in the way we treat one another. 

If the Lord calls us to forgive those who don’t know Him, then it only makes sense that we should forgive our brothers and sisters in Him.

Philemon is in a situation that you and I will likely never go through. It was very specific to that time and that place. In the twenty first century USA as young women, our conflict can range drastically. From domestic issues to relationships and even the kind of conflict Taylor and I were facing.

For whatever conflict you are going through though…

phontoForgiveness is a choice. It’s a choice that we should make because under Christ we are one.

Ephesians 4:32 tells us to forgive as Christ forgives us. That is not an easy task. I forgave Taylor, but part of me did not want to. If I allow myself, I can still become upset about the situation because of my prideful nature. There are no steps to forgiveness that will work every time for every situation. You just have to make the decision.

A decision that Christ will guide you through if you allow Him. He forgives us. Let’s choose to forgive His children. 


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