Survey of Philemon
Along with Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, the letter to
Philemon is regarded as being one of the "prison epistles."
It is not apparent where Philemon lived. From Colossians 4: 9 it appears that Onesmimus ("who is one of yourselves") may have been from Colossae. But wherever Onesimus was from, the theme of the letter is about a practical application of the Golden Rule (Matthew 7: 12) to a real problem situation in the first century church.
The conditions of slavery in the first century were not too different from conditions of slavery in the United States in the years immediately before the War Between the States. A slave could be severely disciplined or even killed for running away. Many who owned slaves viewed them as property and not as human beings. A free person who received and knowingly harbored a slave was viewed as a thief and could be punished as a thief.
Paul followed the teachings of his Master (Matthew 5: 9. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.") in de-fusing and making peace in this situation between owner and master. He reminds the master, Philemon, that he owes some debt of gratitude to Paul (verse 19). Most likely that debt was incurred because Paul had converted Philemon. Paul reminds Philemon that he and Onesimus are brothers in the Lord. His reminder is not unlike that to masters and slaves in Ephesians 6: 5-9 or Colossians 3: 22 - 4: 1). Those passages are among the at-least four that remind all of us that God is no respector of persons (Acts 10: 34, Romans 2: 11).
These same admonitions apply to those of us in employer/employee relations today. Yes, there is work to be done, and, yes, sometimes there is some urgency in making deadlines. But the first consideration is to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. Employees should give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.
We hope that by visiting this website, you have been blessed.
Sid Womack, webmaster
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