On June 26 we will read Philemon – you’ll find it tucked away right before Hebrews. Philemon is a one page letter, Paul’s personal request for a favor from a friend. It’s a big favor – the life of an individual hangs in the balance. Philemon owned a slave, Onesimus, who had run away. In Rome Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a Christian, perhaps they even shared a jail cell together. Onesimus’ conversion to Christ greatly complicated his future – he knew he could not keep running from his responsibilities forever, but if he returned to his master he risked immediate execution or (if the owner was merciful) branding as a runaway. Paul writes a persuasive letter, using all his influence to persuade Philemon to welcome his runaway slave back and to treat him well.
Imagine an estranged relationship you know, or another awkward social situation where an offense has been committed, or there is a socially imposed distance… How can you play the role of a reconciler? How does Paul use his best diplomatic skills to bring two people together? What does he appeal to?