Philemon 10 “I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. 11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. 12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.”

Paul knew both men and could relate to both of their situations. He had history with both of them as the man who led them to Christ. He didn’t choose sides, but at the same time, was not afraid to speak the truth in love. For Onesimus, he convinced the man do the right thing and go back to the one he had wronged. For Philemon, Paul made a clear case for why he should forgive Onesimus and treat him like a true brother in Christ. 

Paul may have been the only hope Philemon and Onesimus had for building a better relationship. Without Paul’s intervention, Philemon could have wound up bitter and Onesimus could have wound up dead! Notice how far Paul was willing to go to reconcile his brothers. The letter tells us that Paul was even willing to pay Onesimus’ debt himself if Philemon still demands it. For the mediator of any conflict, the cost can be high for intervening, but it’s worth it.