This is a short but fascinating book. Paul has introduced a slave to Jesus, and the slave now has to deal with the fact that he stole from his master and ran away. As only God could bring together, Paul knows the master, Philemon, as well. Had Paul outright condemned slavery, Christianity would have become a religion embraced by slaves, not because they wanted to follow Jesus, but because they no longer wanted to be slaves. Masters would not have listened to the message of Jesus because they would have felt economically threatened. A person’s relationship with Jesus is even more important than a person’s view of or relationship with slavery. Nevertheless, Paul challenges Philemon to do the right thing and strongly implies that the right thing is to forgive his slave and give him his freedom.
There are issues today that get people stirred up. Some issues can get Christians so riled up they stop acting like Christians. A person’s relationship with Christ is more important than his or her view on any other important issue of our day. We should help people come to Christ and encourage Christians to do the right thing without making some other issue the focus of our lives.