The call to grace that Paul gives both Philemon and Onesimus is one far easier observed than done. Each needed to show grace to the other even though they were in very different situations. Onesimus was to be gracious to the owner that was placed over him, and Philemon needed to be gracious to the life that was in his care.

How often are we in these similar situations? All of us have someone we report to, or that reports to us; if not a boss, parent, or teacher, and ultimately God. For those that are our leaders, do we choose to extend grace to them when they give us tasks or in the ways they treat us? For those placed in our care, do we choose to be gracious to them, understanding their value and serving them in leadership? In both cases how we should choose to respond when the other fails us is in graciousness; considering them as not infallible but as a valuable receptacle of the glory of God.

Here are three takeaways for all of us.

  1. Submit to the leaders over us despite our feelings about them and give them the grace to fail.
  2. Treat those who are placed in our care as brothers, not slaves, and give them the grace to fail.  
  3. All of us fail. If we run from our master or we are the master, we fail.

— Mitch Ressel