Fast 5: Philemon Philosophy…

Paul's Letter to Philemon

Paul’s Letter to Philemon

The hubby and I rebelled against the “game system craze” of the 1990s and early 2000s, which irritated the stuffing out of our offspring. To quell their dissatisfaction we did buy educational and Christian games that could be played on the home computer for quite a number of years. I am the first to say that I am lousy at playing video and computer games, unless we’re talking about the Difficult level of Spider Solitaire or Pet Detective on Lumosity.com (Let me guess–there are Jim Carrey fans at Lumosity.com.) But, one game that I finally managed to master during the era of computer games at our house, was Onesimus. There were 33 levels to that game (I think?!) and it required the user to get Onesimus, the slave, safely back to Philemon, his owner. Getting Onesimus back to Philemon safely was no easy feat! And even the offspring took quite a while to finally master the game. Onesimus must have loved danger, because the boy managed to find all kinds of trouble on his way back to Colossae, probably the town where Philemon resided. Let’s just say it was easier to avoid that donkey in Donkey Kong. 

Paul wanted to get Onesimus back to Philemon safely, too. Rather than help Onesimus navigate the various obstacles (as we did in the game), he wrote a personal letter to Philemon and asked Philemon to treat Onesimus kindly. The psychology geek in me is just intrigued at the human interaction dynamics going on in this letter. Here are my impressions so far:

1. Paul, when he wanted to, could charm the skin off a snake. This letter oozes compliments.

2. Paul, when he wanted to, could make a virgin feel guilty of prostitution. He sticks the “guilt knife” in poor Philemon’s “side” around verse 19.

3. Paul was ridiculously smart.

Why the last statement? For several reasons:

1. Paul sends this letter via Onesimus to be sure that Philemon can’t ignore it or lose it or say he didn’t receive it. Of course, Philemon is going to pay attention to a runaway slave having the audacity to step foot back on his property after running away.

2. Paul refers to Onesimus as his “son”. If Onesimus is harmed, Philemon will have to deal with Paul’s wrath. Since Paul used to persecute Christians for a living, that is no small thing!

3. Paul sends Onesimus back to “face the music”. He knows that Philemon, now a Christian, is more likely to go easy on him if he “repents.”

4. Paul tells Philemon that Onesimus will be more useful as a brother in Christ as opposed to working as a slave. This appeals to the businessman side of Philemon, so that he will look upon the change in treatment as a business investment.

But I have a sneaky suspicion (purely my opinion) that Paul adds in one seemingly unrelated topic at the end of his letter to Philemon to further ensure that Onesimus is not mistreated. Do you have the same sneaky suspicion? Then, comment below and see if you and I agree. What’s that? You want me to spill the beans on my theory here? Sorry–I’m saving that for the “in-person” discussion on Philemon this coming Sunday at my church!

And yes, we are now the owners of a ridiculous number of video games and two unused game systems that we eventually bought for the offspring. But, how many 7 year olds do you know who could tell you who Onesimus and Philemon were? Case closed. End of discussion. 🙂

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 at 10:50 am and is filed under God stuff. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


  1. November 5th, 2014 | Pam Patterson says:

    He reminds Philemon that he “owes him”, has confidence in his obedience, and plans to see him again (prepare a guestroom for me). In other words, whatever Philemon’s decision, he will face Paul again.

    This is a master letter of persuasion that should be studied in schools!

  2. November 7th, 2014 | maryann says:

    You are so smart, Pam Patterson! I can see you’ve been doing your homework! 🙂

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