Love Appeals to the Hand

Life in Christ demands that friends who have hurt one another heal together. Betrayal committed by a friend can cause deep pain, hurt, and bitterness that keeps you chained to the past in unforgiveness. When you are chained to the past, you are not free to love God and people fully in the present and future. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes you completely. Once alienated from God’s love, dead spiritually, and slaves to sin, you are now His child, spiritually alive and no longer in bondage! That affects how you look at God and how you look at others.



Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—

Plea for Onesimus, a Free Man

10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, 11 who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. 12 I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart,13 whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.


17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.


2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,


  • When you hear the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people,” does a particular person or situation come to mind? If it would be appropriate and beneficial to the group, explain.

  • Why do you think forgiveness is such a hard thing to do? Both in general, and specifically for you.

  • If someone did something to betray a close friend, how would you likely counsel that friend: walk away, get even, get mad, forget about it, forgive, other? Why?

  • Based on verses 8-9, why did Paul think it was his right, even his responsibility, to speak to Philemon about his relationship with Onesimus?

  • How does Paul’s understanding of what it means to love people contrast with the way most people today think about what it means to love people?

  • Does this mean you also have responsibility to call others to forgiveness when relationships go wrong? Explain.

  • What are some arguments someone might have to counter Paul’s appeal, “For love’s sake” (i.e. for my sake, for the sake of fairness, for the sake of not being betrayed again, etc.)? What would change in your life if your relationships were driven by love above all else?

  • From verses 12-13, what does it appear Paul wanted Philemon to do?

  • How had Onesimus changed since he had betrayed Philemon?

  • Onesimus had spent some amount of time as Philemon’s slave. So why did Paul say he had been useless to Philemon? What did he mean that Onesimus was now “useful” to them both? Did he mean Onesimus would now be a better slave, or do you think he meant something else? Explain.

  • Should your forgiveness of others depend on whether or not the person deserves your forgiveness? Explain. How has God forgiven you?

  • Is love something you feel or something you do? What about forgiveness—is it a feeling or a choice? Explain.

  • What did Paul mean when he wrote, in essence, that perhaps the reason for Onesimus’s betrayal was so that Philemon might “have him back forever”?

  • Do you believe that God can and wants to use even the betrayal of a friend for your good and His glory? What are some specific ways we can demonstrate that belief?

  • What do you learn about forgiveness and reconciliation from this passage?


  • Of the steps for reconciliation identified in this week’s sermon message from Philemon, which stands out to you the most? Reconciliation: start with humility, support with sensitivity, demand integrity, act voluntarily, or recognize God’s plans and purposes? Explain.

  • In what situations is it difficult for you to choose persuasion and gentleness over a power play?How is God speaking to you about that?

  • In terms of reconciliation and forgiveness, how might seeing others’ need for Jesus impact how you relate to them?

  • What are you doing to remind yourself of God’s grace to you in Christ? What are some ways you can express your gratitude to Christ for His forgiveness?


Joining a group is a great way to know people and strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ. Take a look at available groups to get plugged in to and find the group that is right for you.


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