Philemon 1:13-14 [ESV]
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.
I am tiptoeing through this book; trying to think through and put myself in the place of all three primaries – Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. I know Paul is just a man, although a man who was stopped and talked to by Jesus on the road to Damascus. However, in this book I see so much more of his humanity. He has grown so close to Onesimus but knows he must provide the way back to Philemon for him. Also out of respect for Philemon even though Onesimus has been such a companion for Paul while he has been imprisoned, Paul does not feel it’s appropriate to keep Onesimus with him now that he has grown into a Godly man and transformed from his previous life where he stole from Philemon.
Paul’s heart is not only big here but the honor and integrity he shows in these two verses is so humbling. I have to ask myself whether I am this quick to adhere to an honorable path like Paul has done. I can’t imagine anyone would have thought ill of Paul for continuing to keep Onesimus as a faithful companion; but Paul knew that this approach was His honoring and honoring to both Onesimus and Philemon. I need to be sure that I am this kind of honorable man of God; quick to listen and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit when He tugs on my heart in this way.