Philemon 1:17-18 // So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

Here the great apostle Paul petitions his brother Philemon on behalf of his brother Onesimus. Apparently, as a runaway slave, Onesimus had wronged Philemon and in so doing had incurred a great debt to him. From a human perspective, forgiveness and reconciliation between these two men seemed highly unlikely. Yet the providential grace of God was on the move. God so orchestrated the lives of these two men that they came to share in a common relational denominator, a gospel preacher named Paul.

Paul knew that if Philemon was going to receive Onesimus back with a no-strings-attached forgiveness, if he was going to be willing to forgo his right to demand repayment of his debts, he would need to be reminded of the beautiful truth of the gospel he had first received from Paul, the same truth of which Onesimus had himself now received. So with great pastoral wisdom and care, Paul puts the gospel on display before Philemon by willingly standing in the gap between these two men with a plea and a promise. He appeals to him by saying, "Receive him as you would receive me." How would Philemon have received Paul? According to Paul, Philemon owed him his very life, so every reception of Paul would, for Philemon, become an opportunity to roll out the red carpet of gratitude with extravagant rejoicing and generous hospitality. And he also makes a promise: “Take all of his wrongs and debts and charge that to my account!” What sort of account did Paul have with Philemon? Because of his role in leading him to Christ, Paul had with Philemon a credit account with no limits; a debit account that could never overdraft. 

And so says Paul, you Philemon who may be tempted to struggle with forgiveness and reconciliation, remember what it is that you have in Christ. You have received a welcome reception before your heavenly Father as if you were the Son of God himself. And you have seen the record of your debt of sin charged to the account of another. How then can you withhold freely bestowing forgiveness and offering reconciliation? For such is the power of divine grace at work in human forgiveness and reconciliation.