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Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer,
2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon's Love and Faith
4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers,
5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints,
6 that the sharing your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.

The Plea for Onesimus
8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting,
9 yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you - being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ -
10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains,
11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and me,
12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart,
13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.
14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.
15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever,
16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Philemon's Obedience Encouraged
17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.
18 But if he has wronged you or owes you anything, put that on my account.
19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand, I will repay - not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides.
20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.
21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
22 But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you,
24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

From "NKJV"
The Law of Connection: Paul Connects, Then Asks for Help

In the very personal letter of Philemon, Paul asks his friend to do something very difficult; graciously receive back a runaway slave. Before he confronts Philemon, Paul connects by walking through the following stages of conflict management:

  1. The compliment stage (4-7) Paul affirmed Philemon and reminded him of his love. Good leaders begin confrontation with affirmation. They focus on positive qualities.
  2. The compromise stage (8-13) Before his appeal, Paul concedes the present status of the slave, Onesimus. Good leaders own some responsibility for the conflict and recognize their differences.
  3. The choice stage (14) Paul sought the consent of Philemon to send back Onesimus. He laid out the challenge to receive him. In this stage, leaders clearly articulate the decision in front of both parties.
  4. The challenge stage (15-20) Paul challenged Philemon to do what was right. He committed to steps he'd take to make things right, but issued a challenge to Philemon to respond and take the high road.
  5. The confidence stage (21-22) Paul expressed confidence in Philemon that he would, indeed, do what was right in the sight of God. Paul believed the best about his friend and communicated his love for him.
Problem Solving: Healthy Confrontation and Resolution
The best way to solve many problems is to confront them. Sometimes those problems are people. Paul took great pains to confront Philemon about Onesimus. Consider these steps for confronting someone:
  1. Pray through your own anger. Don't let emotion lead you. Wait until you can be objective.
  2. Initiate the contact. Don't wait for the other person. God calls us to make things right.
  3. Begin with affirmation. Encourage first, then receive permission to talk candidly.
  4. Admit you have a problem. Don't say it's the other person's problem; admit you are struggling.
  5. Bring up the issue and explain you don't understand what's happened. Aim to clarify.
  6. Let the person respond. After you lay out the issue, let the individual speak from his or her angle.
  7. Narrow the focus. Identify and prioritize the issues. Go after one change at a time.
  8. Establish forgiveness and repentance, if needed. Don't stop until change occurs.
  9. Compromise on opinions, not on principles. Be flexible with everything except the truth.
  10. Pray and affirm your love as you close. Never let the person doubt God's love or yours.
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