*** w77 3/15 p. 191 Questions From Readers ***
Still, God’s Word does not charge the Christian congregation, through its overseers, with the obligation to become acquainted with all the details of civil and criminal law so as to enforce these. We can see this in how Paul handled the case of Onesimus.
Onesimus was a slave of a Colossian Christian named Philemon. For some selfish reason Onesimus fled to Rome so he could lose himself in the masses of people there; he may even have robbed his master before fleeing. In Rome as a runaway slave (Latin, fugitivus) Onesimus came in contact with Paul, became a Christian and ministered to Paul. In time the apostle urged Onesimus to return to his legal master, Paul even encouraging Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother and to treat him kindly.—Philem. 8-22.
Take note that while Onesimus was in Rome the apostle Paul did not hand him over to the Roman authorities for punishment as a fugitive slave and possibly a thief. We know from his writings that Paul believed that a Christian should obey the law of the land, but plainly he did not consider it the congregation’s duty to serve as an arm of the government in policing individuals’ lives. Also, we can observe that Onesimus’ situation was not treated as a barrier to his getting baptized. Eventually Onesimus, likely motivated by counsel such as had been written earlier in Romans 13:1-5 and by Paul’s personal urgings, chose to return to his legal master.