12 “I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 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, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.” (Philemon 12–14 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul told Philemon that Onesimus was coming home. Paul was sending him back. In effect, he said he was sending back his very heart. Onesimus had become near and dear to the apostle.
In fact, Paul continued to say that he would have gladly keep Onesimus with him. This was so the young man could help the elder apostle while he remained in prison.
However, the situation became a matter of doing what was best instead of what was good. While it would have been good for Paul to keep Onesimus with him in Rome, it would be best for Onesimus to return to Philemon in Colossae.
Paul desired that Philemon would welcome back Onesimus because he wanted to and not because he had to. He also wanted Philemon to not be surprised by the apostle’s proposed action but rather to willingly and positively consent to such a plan.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Paul gave up part of his own comfort and well-being in sending Onesimus back to Philemon, though Luke and a few others were still around to help the apostle (vv. 23–24). Yet Paul was not only sacrificing some of his physical well-being but also a close relationship, because sending Onesimus back meant sending back “his heart” (v. 12). The apostle was risking the loss of fellowship with Onesimus forever, as Philemon might have chosen to keep him in Colossae and not to free him.”
Who do you consider your close friends? One pastor writes, “Do you have relationships with other believers that would enable you to say with Paul that you would be sending away your “heart” if you were to move or otherwise lose the chance for face-to-face fellowship? God did not make us to function alone as believers, and we all need close Christian friendships to help us grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus. What are you doing to forge these relationships?
Have a blessed day in the Lord. Perhaps consider texting, emailing or calling a friend to let them know how much they mean to you.
Soli deo Gloria!