Job reference - Vouching for rehabilitated runaway...
Paul wrote a reference letter for Onesimus, a "rehabilitated" and released runaway. This is an apres-"missing" story. The letter has at least 10 sections. It is a semi-public letter, as it is addressed to Philemon and the church that meets in his house.
When Paul was jailed, he saw that Onesimus was a fellow prisoner who stood out positively. Paul had instructed him in the Christian faith. Seems they knew the same man--Philemon. First Paul must have encouraged Onesiums and talked to him about another prisoner who stood out...Joseph. The Joseph who was sold by his own brothers. Like Joseph, Onesimus had been trusted long ago, was fair to the fellow prisoners and filled positions of responsibility. This was certainly an important factor for a reference letter when he would be released. He had been trusted with small and important joblets and positions, and then more important ones.
Then Paul must also have talked about other types of prisoners--those that died on the cross next to Jesus.
Third, Paul must have talked about Jesus Christ, including the part of the prisoner Christ. He must have passed on what he knew from eyewitnesses of Jesus. He had met many of those in person and he knew Jesus directly from the Damascus Road.
Onesimus became Paul's "son" and a knowledgeable and useful believer, so much so that he could have been Paul's long-standing partner.
Paul wrote to Onesimus' "victim", Philemon, who had been and probably still was his legal owner. Onesimus had been "missing" to him since he had run away. As it happened, the slave owner had also become another of Paul's partners. Whatever "sins" both had committed as slave and owner was now long forgiven by Jesus himself. It was time now for victim and perpetrator to meet and heal to have a "new" equal relationship in a supportive situation.
1. Paul used the normal letter format, greeting, identification, (date etc.) such as in all the letters he wrote to the various churches in the New Testament. Part of the information given, is suitable for an envelope, naming senders and addressees.
____________ an ___________. German
2. He wrote that he was praying for Philemon, the reference letter receiver, thanking God. (Paul could write this with conviction. What he didn't write here was that he prayed also about many others,...including Onesimus, the supposed "perpetrator", all those affected by his deeds, and other prisoners too.)
Dari _________________, kepada ________. Indonesian
__________ a ___________. Slovak
Mouin minm ___________, pou ___________. Haitian
Från _________________, till___________. Swedish
De la part de ________; à ____________.
3. Paul wrote about Onesimus' change of heart.
4. Paul offered to pay any outstanding debts and wrote:
"Charge it to me."
"Direct Quote": Philemon 1:18
Paul put his money where his mouth was.
German - Rechne dies mir an.
Spanish - Cárgalo a mi cuenta.
French - Mets cela sur mon conte.
Albanian -?- Më detyro mua për të gjitha.
5. Paul gave Philemon (and by extension, also his family, and the church members) the choice of whether they would take him back or not.
"I make a request to you on behalf of O________."
Ich bitte dich für O__________. German
Je t'adresse une demande en faveur d'O________. French
? - Po të lutem për birin tim, për O_________in. - Albanian
"I did not want to do anything without your consent."
Ich wollte nicht ohne deine Zustimmung handeln. German
6. Paul could have ordered him.
Je n'ai rien voulu faire sans que tu sois d'accord. French
"I could ... order you 'to do what should be done'."
Ich könnte dir befehlen, was du tun sollst. German
Instead he appealed to him.
Bien que toute liberté me soit donnée - de t'ordonner ce que tu dois faire, je ... French
"I appeal to you on the basis of love."
Ich bitte dich nur, um der Liebe Raum zu geben. German
He appreciated the strength and healing of forgiving, positive choice and love. The response would be and needed to be spontaneous and not forced.
Je préfère t'adresser une demande au nom de l'amour. French
? - Më fort po më pëlqen të drejtohem me lutje në emër të dashurisë. - Albanian
7. While writing, Paul called in all favours owing to him without going into details.
"...not to mention that you owe me your very self."
"Direct quote": Philemon 1:19
Why did Philemon owe his very self to Paul? What was the previous risk to Philemon's life that he needed to be saved from? Was it a risk that would make him understand Onesimus? Was Philemon an ex-con himself? Perhaps Philemon was a relative of a con or a prisoner?
German - Ich will nicht davon reden, daß Du mir Dein ganzes Leben schuldest.
Spanish - ...sin hablar más de la deuda que tienes conmigo y que eres tú mismo.
French - Je n'ai certes pas à te rappeler que toi tu me dois ta propre vie.
8. Paul thought positively and wrote:
"You will do even more than I ask."
"Direct Quote": Philemon 1:21
9. Do you think Paul was cheeky to ask even more?
German - Du wirst sogar noch mehr tun als ich erbitte.
Spanish - Sé que harás mucho más de lo que te pido.
French - Je sais même que tu feras plus encore.
Well, he did. But this time he asked in detail for what he needed himself.
"Prepare a guest room for me."
"Direct Quote": Philemon 1:22
He asked for his own needs to be met when he himself would be released. He expected God to listen to their and his own prayers. Perhaps he wanted to be there to help smooth out newer, but minor problems of the new relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. Perhaps he even thought that the "guest" room could become Onesimus' room when he would no longer be there. And for the visit, would the two not be able to share one room, if they had been able to share life in prison?
German - Halte auch ein Quartier für mich bereit.
Spanish -Prepárame alojamiento.
French - Prépare-moi une chambre.
10. Paul ended with a normal ending. He asked God's blessing on the recipients.
Why don't you read the short Book of 25 verses called Philemon in the New Testament soon?
Lord Jesus, our Messiah, we do ask you for runaways, those they come in contact with, mentors and those that give purposeful work to rehabilitated former runaways. We thank you for forgiveness. We thank you that Paul helped so many before his letter. We thank you that he knew how to read and write.
We thank you for choice instead of coersion. We thank you that when we have done good works, that we can pull in favours for others within your will.