Faces of Our Faith: Philemon

Philemon 

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, 2to Apphia our sister,  to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in your house: 

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

4 When I remember you  in my prayers, I always thank my God 5because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith towards the Lord Jesus. 6I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. 7I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. 

8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 9yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.10I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus (Ὀνήσιμος), whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11Formerly he was useless (ἄχρηστον) to you, but now he is indeed useful (εὔχρηστονboth to you and to me. 12I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.15Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, 16no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self.20Yes, brother, let me have this benefit (ὀναίμην—same root word as Onesimus) from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 

22 One thing more—prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you. 

23 Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you,24and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow-workers. 

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 

The Questions In the Bulletin for the listener:

Why is it important to understand the cultural context of Paul’s letters?

In what ways does Paul encourage Philemon to put love above law? What does it look like to do this today?

Imagine Paul’s letter is addressed to the modern-day church. Who are the Onesimuses in our midst? Who are the ones deemed useless or delinquent who need to be welcomed into the beloved community?