I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self.
Paul continues with his plea for Onesimus that has started in verse 8. This show how serious was the matter. It is a sign of how committed was Paul to ending oppressive systems like slavery. In the letter he emphasizes that he had written it by his own hand and this implies that in other letters he could use secretary to write for him. This is not the case with this short letter; he had to write it by his own hand. The reasons for writing with his own hand are probably because of the personal nature and sensitivity of the contents of the letter.
Grant Richison argues that “Paul placed himself under a legal contract by writing with his own hand.” The issue of restitution remains central in the negotiations and Paul is committed to fulfilling the obligation to repay Philemon. However, Paul reminds Philemon that he owes him as well but this might not be a financial debt since Philemon was rich to lend from Paul but this might be salvation debt. Therefore, Philemon´s debt is bigger than that of Onesimus and this should condition Philemon to forgive Onesimus even without restitution. Two takeaways for today are; 1. We are all debtors before God. 2. We should therefore forgive those who owe us as well since our father always forgives us.
The Revd Canon Dr. I. S. Gusha
Ss Philip and James Anglican Church
Palma de Mallorca.
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