The little book of Philemon is the only surviving letter of Paul to an individual friend and convert about a private matter. In it we learn that Onesimus, one of Philemon's slaves, had stolen from his master and run away to Rome. In that great city he met Paul and became a Christian. Under Roman law, Philemon had the right to brand a returned slave and even kill him.
Paul applies what he wrote in Colossians: "Here there is no Greek or Jew . . . slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all" (Col 3:11). Philemon and Onesimus are given the chance to participate in a revolutionary new process for reconciliation.