While Philemon is the recipient of the letter that bears his name, Paul is the author. We know a great deal about Paul, as he is mentioned over 250 times* in the Bible, mostly in the book of Acts, but also in the letters that he wrote, as well as once by Peter. Only Jesus is mentioned more frequently.
From these mentions, we know Paul to be a missionary, a church leader, a church planter, a mentor, and a teacher. In the book of Philemon, we also see him emerge as an influencer to reconcile and restore broken relationships.
Reconciliation was the reason for Paul writing his letter to Philemon. Paul’s desire was to see Onesimus and Philemon’s estranged relationship made right. Paul encouraged both of them to the right thing: for Onesimus to return to his master regardless of risk and for Philemon to welcome him back without penalty.
Paul was able to assume this role of reconciler because he had a personal relationship with both parties. This history gave him a credibility that an outsider would have lacked, allowing him to positively influence them both.
If you, like Paul, are in relationship with two estranged people, should your role be to encourage them to pursue reconciliation? If you’re not sure, talk to God about it. He may have put you in that position for this very reason.
*The name Paul occurs a total of 239 times: 183 in Acts; 55 in his letters, and once in 2 Peter 3:15. Additionally, his original name, Saul, is mentioned 29 times, all in Acts.