Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scripture Sunday: The Book of Philemon

Philemon is an interesting one-chapter book of the New Testament. It's a quick letter from Paul to a rich man named Philemon. One of Philemon's slaves, Onesimus, ran away, but shortly after leaving his master, Onesimus became a Christian. Since Philemon is already a Christian, Paul is writing to ask him to be kind to Onesimus when he returns.

I have to confess that I feel uncomfortable with the general topic of this book. As a Christian, shouldn't Philemon have freed his slaves anyway? The Old Testament laws didn't permit Jews to have slaves (though they could have indentured bondservants who went free after seven years of service), but the New Testament doesn't quite address the evils of slavery like I'd expect it to. If I were writing Philemon, I'd be asking the man "Why do you still own slaves? What is wrong with you?" but Paul doesn't take that approach. He simply commends Philemon for his love for the Lord, then asks him to be good to Onesimus, who Paul now sees as a son.


  1. I wonder if this letter might have been Paul's way of convincing Philemon to free Onesimus from slavery. I wonder if Onesimus was a slave because he wasn't a Christian, but he ran off and became a Christian. Maybe Paul only thought it fitting to send Onesimus back because of the change. That's what I gather from verses 15-17. I don't like slavery either of course, but I know that owning slaves was a way of showing wealth and power. It sucks, but it was necessary to the people back then. I think a lot of Christians should focus on verse 8 and the beginning of 9:

    "(8)That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. (9)But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you."

    To me, that's saying we can act like we're better than everyone because we're Christians and we can force people to do what we want, but it won't get us anywhere. People are more likely to respond where there is love. A lot of Christians seem to forget that when they attack others for not following the same beliefs as they do.

    By the way, I've actually been meaning to follow this meme you started, but obviously I'm very bad at doing that. I love that you've been doing this!


    1. Kim,

      I liked Paul's words from verse 8, also--how he definitely has the authority to tell Philemon what to do, but he's going to do the kind, brotherly thing by just asking him as a friend.

      I'm glad you like Scripture Sundays. I've enjoyed hearing your thoughts about the Bible. :-)