The Vibe of Philemon

Paul’s letter to Philemon has a diplomatic vibe. Philemon’s slave Onesimus has done a runner and has joined Paul’s team of missionaries. Philemon is a Christian and Paul praises him liberally before ordering him (in his role as earthly ambassador for Jesus) to welcome Onesimus back. Paul is full of praise for the slave and would like to have him with him full time. Rather than force the issue though, he does the political thing and returns Onesimus to Philemon in the hope that Philemon will let him have him back. But he’s realistic in that Philemon may want to keep his slave - if he does he’s on to a good thing as Onesimus appears to be a fine follower of Jesus. Paul offers to pay Philemon back for anything Onesimus owes him and is hopeful that he will get back in person to visit Philemon’s church. The vibe is a mixture of flattery, confidence and political game playing – at no point does Paul even acknowledge that Philemon might give Onesimus a good thrashing for going AWOL. Thanks to the letter, if Philemon does anything other than welcome his runaway slave with open arms he becomes the bad guy. A clever, win win vibe.

General vibe of Philemon: Flatter and hope for the best.

Factvibe: Happily, Philemon not only welcomed Onesimus back without so much as a spanking, he freed him from slavery as well.
Previous vibe: Titus
Next vibe: Hebrews