Reflection from Laura Herrick
Paul calls Philemon in this passage to not only free Onesimus because he “ought to” v 8 but out of love for both Philemon and Onesimus. He chose to help Philemon have the chance to get to know Onesimus as a brother and someone made in the image of Christ. Part of my job is to teach elementary school students the concept of empathy through helping the children to share more about themselves with their classmates and learn to listen to each other. It compels them to find commonality and be less likely to bully each other or say something without thinking about its impact on the other person. Through calling Philemon to view Onesimus as a brother in Christ, Paul helps him to view him as a human, made in the image of God, breaking down the slave/master relationship and helping him to develop empathy towards Onesimus. Christianity calls us to love each other when it is difficult and tells us to expect nothing in return. Loving each other, however, often gives us the chance to learn from our brothers and sisters and encourage each other to become more like Christ.