The short book of Philemon is a letter from Paul to Philemon concerning a runaway slave of Philemon’s, Onesimus. In the years before the U.S. Civil War, both sides argued that the book supported their position on slavery. The abolitionists saw Paul appealing to Christ’s law of love to encourage Philemon to accept Onesimus as a Christian brother and no longer as a slave. Those defending slavery pointed out that Paul did not command Philemon to free Onesimus.
While this can be seen as people being able to use the Bible to support any position, I think it also can show us two different ways people interpret the Bible. There are those who demand a crystal clear statement to challenge their view, while others see God at work in the Bible to encourage us to think issues through, asking God’s Spirit to guide us.