Yes, I have to look it up in the index every time! It’s only a page, but it’s worth reading the whole letter.
It is one of the so-called Pastoral letters Paul writes to specific people, not a whole church.
Philemon is a Christian, a well to do man. As such he owns slaves – a very usual situation then.
He is also a Christian, well known to Paul (who hopes one day to stay with him, v 22) who has a church meeting in his house. It is likely that this letter was intended to be shared with this congregation – the saints.
The letter concerns a slave, Onesimus (ON I SI MUS), who has obviously done something wrong. Possibly even stolen something and run away. He has been found by Paul to whom he has become like a son (v 10) and Paul is sending him back to his master with this letter asking for mercy and forgiveness. He does not appeal with an order or complicated theology, but he appeals to him on the basis of love and compassion as they are both followers of Christ.
Obviously, Paul and Onesimus have formed a close bond and Paul thinks that now, in Christ, the former slave will be of even more use in Philemon’s Christian household.
Such a warm and loving letter.
I wonder what happened next? Forgiveness for both Master and Slave would not have been easy.
It’s interesting that Paul thinks that Onesimus will now, after his dreadful experience of letting down his master and being on the run, be of more use in the Christian congregation than he was before. It is often true that hard experiences sharpen our faith, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” (Nietzsche 19th century philosopher).
Look back on your life and see what strengthened your faith – was it only the good times? God gave me opportunities in his service – which I could only have taken after my husband died.