Philemon – Philemon
To Philemon our beloved fellow worker,
So who is the book written to?
The first person mentioned is Philemon. He is the main person, the person the letter was delivered to, but just like Paul, there is a context of people who were around him, to whom the letter was also meant to be shared.
Philemon is first described as “beloved.” How sweet! I’m sad that in our culture we don’t greet each other as “beloved.” In fact, some children can’t remember their parents telling them they love them. We have drained out affectionate words and replaced them with kidding, teasing, “you know what I mean” sarcasm. No, we don’t always know what you mean.
Paul had true, spoken, affection for Philemon. At this point, we’re not sure why, but we know it is there. It’s deeply personal and intimate. Paul is not preaching to a crowd; he is whispering to a friend, a beloved friend.
Philemon is also a “fellow worker.” He’s someone who has stood shoulder to shoulder with Paul, doing the ministry. He’s been bowed under problems with Paul as well as danced with him with joy. They have prayed, wept and worked together.
There are relationships I’ve fostered over lunch or coffee appointments. I love them deeply for what they have shared with me, how transparent they have been about their lives and how they have let me enter their lives.
There are also relationships where we have worked side by side. It usually took longer to develop relationship, because we were focused on the work. But in doing the work, we learned trust. We began to anticipate the other person’s thoughts, desires, weaknesses. The small talk between tasks became bigger talk as we sought solutions together. We owned the work together.
I’m not saying one kind of relationship is better than the other. They are just different. But I have found that when we changed locations, the first kind fell away as we no longer could have our lunch dates. The second group fell away if we were no longer working together. But the memories of the second group seem to stay with me longer, and when there is opportunity, the work, and the relationship, has been easy to pick up.
Example in case: I have a high school friend I’ve hardly seen in the last 40 years. Back in the day, desirous to reach our campus for Christ, we started a prayer group during lunch. Years passed, and we went our own ways. Recently, with careers over and children gone, we have reconnected. Once again, we’re shoulder to shoulder, doing volunteer audio editing on line with her.BIBLE. It’s been as smooth as spreading butter.
Relationships come to us from all different directions, and they are all precious and unique. But there is something about a common cause that brings us together.
Philemon was one of those who shared the cause with Paul, a beloved fellow worker.