Paul engages in a full court press, he says everything he can, short of an order, to get Philemon to forgive Onesimus. First he equates having any love for him with welcoming Onesimus. If Onesimus has done Philemon and wrong or owes him anything, it should be charged to Paul’s account. Paul will will pay it back. (though Philemon owes his very life to the ministry of Paul, which Paul mentions) Then comes the “oh please” as Paul writes that he hopes to have some benefit from Philemon and to be refreshed by his obedience. Finally Paul assumes that obedience and writes of how confident he is that Philemon will do even more than he asks. I feel like I just got one of those “well you know the right thing to do but you can do what you want” lectures from my mother. Its the very kind of sermon I try never to preach, one that wallows in guilting people into action.
But Paul is not preaching a sermon, he is writing to a close friend. And I have been pretty forceful when I knew my friend was about to blow up some part of his life with a bad decision. I’ve laid it on too thick and done everything but demand he make the right decision, (as I saw that right decision to be) so maybe I better give old Paul the benefit of the doubt. One thing of which I am sure is that the motivation of his letter is love. Paul wants Philemon and Onesimus to experience the love of friendship they never could have as master and servant.
Without Wax, Dr. Dwight