Imagine opening up your favorite magazine and seeing a personal letter asking for forgiveness for another person on one of the pages. This letter kinda goes into detail while still being vague about why this other person needs forgiveness. Everyone involved is mentioned by name. What would you do? What is your first thought? What if you knew the people mentioned? Why is this letter in the magazine in the first place? Anyone reading this magazine may think the same thing. This is the way I felt when I read the book of Philemon in preparation for our first official week of the BCC (Biblical Core Course). My first thought was why is this very personal letter in the Bible? What can I possibly learn from reading someone else's mail? Well, let me tell you, there is much to learn from the book of Philemon. This letter is written by Paul when he was in prison on house arrest, most likely while in Rome, around 60-63 AD. Paul is writing to Philemon on behalf of a run away slave named Onesimus (pronounced Oh-ni-si-mus) but this letter isn't just addressed to Philemon. If you read carefully you will find that Paul is also writing to the church that meets in Philemon's house. Now this is where it gets a little interesting. It seems that Onesimus ran away from Philemon and at some point, possibly while visiting Paul in prison, gave his life to God and decided to follow Jesus. Keep in mind that slaves in that time period were not what we think of now. They were well taken care of and often liNow, Onesimus would like to do the right thing and return to Philemon but knows that he faces possible death as does Paul for aiding him. So, Paul, being good friends with and a mentor of Philemon, writes this letter of appeal. Paul is requesting that Philemon and all of the other church members to embrace their slaves not just as slaves but as brothers and treat them as such. He wants Philemon to be himself, he is great at encouraging the saints (fellow-believers) and mentoring them. Paul is asking him to do the same for Onesimus. On of the "timeless truths" (basically a key theme from the book that is true always, not matter the setting or situation) I got out of Philemon was to lead by an example of love and not forcefulness. Paul states that he is more than capable of commanding Philemon to do what he wants but instead is appealing out of love (see verse 8). Paul wants Philemon to to understand his heart and understand why he should accept Onesimus back and forgive him and embrace him into the family of God as a brother. He wants Philemon to be an example of Christ to Onesimus but also to the other slave-owners in his church.
Don't take my word for it, search it out, ask your own questions, really read what is written and see what you get out of it. Now read Philemon again and see what you think.
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