I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel.
Paul continues with his plea for Onesimus and certainly, he had done something wrong when he escaped from his master Philemon. It is not yet clear what Onesimus had done but what is coming out slowly is that he escaped from his master.
We hope the next verses will shed more light on this mystery. Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon but he mentions something special about Onesimus; first, he clearly states that he has been useful to him while imprisonment and would have liked to stay with him but he can´t. The usefulness mentioned yesterday is now unpacked, he assisted him while in prison. Second, he mentions that i am sending him as ´my own heart´ this means that Onesimus had become so dear to him as part of his own soul. This is a strong expression being used by Paul as rhetoric for his plea. This means that when Philemon is receiving Onesimus in his eyes he should see Paul not a runaway slave form the master. Paul knew the gravity of the offense that has been committed by Onesimus but he was appealing to Philemon to forgive and deal gentle with him. Two takeaways for today: 1. Self-emptying is important when pleading for someone. 2. No sinner is beyond forgiveness.