Show Me Compassion! (1:20-21)

The NIV fails to translate Paul's opening "yes" (nai), which introduces his subsequent wish as a more emphatic repetition of his request that Philemon welcome Onesimus as a partner (Harris 1991:275). While Paul recognizes that such a radical departure from social convention would derive from Philemon's status in the Lord, he also recognizes in the parallel phrase that Philemon has a proven capacity for "refreshing hearts" (see commentary on vv. 6-7). Now, having made his request, the apostle translates his earlier thanksgiving into an emphatic, personal demand: Philemon, refresh my heart in Christ.

Again we find that in concluding his request, Paul emphasizes Philemon's spiritual capacity to refresh my heart (splanchna, v. 20). The believer's participation in the Lord / in Christ transforms his capacity to act in "refreshing" ways that build koinonia (see commentary on vv. 6-7). Paul's confidence that Philemon will treat both him and Onesimus, for whom he is substitute, in the same way he has treated the other saints is based on what takes place in Christ.

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