Amongst other things, the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon teaches us what to do when Christians experience difficulties in their relationships. If it has been a while since you read this brief letter, you can do so by clicking HERE.
It can happen
We must remember that, though we never wish it to be the case, Christians do occasionally get cross-wise. This can result from a variety of causes. Whether we want it to or not, it can and does happen. A few examples are:
Reconciliation involves risk
We must understand that facilitating reconciliation often involves capitalizing on long-standing relationships. This, however, involves risk. There is the possibility that those with whom we are working will not see things the way we see them. Still, for the sake of Christ and His cause, the risk should be taken.
With respect to the circumstance addressed in Philemon, the potential tension arose from something that occurred prior to Onesimus’ decision to follow Jesus. Nevertheless, by reflecting on the Holy Spirit’s message in these few verses, we learn some important things about how to bring about healing for damaged relationships. It begins with mustering the courage to take proactive steps to bring about reconciliation.
Taking proactive steps
With this in mind, consider the following guidelines which Paul’s letter to Philemon brings to light:
—Personal appeals carry the greatest weight. Within this passage Paul departs from his standard format and makes his entire appeal on a personal level.
—Heavy-handedness seldom produces desired results (v. 8).
—Love is the most compelling rationale (v. 9).
— Helping to heal damaged relationships involves real and personal risk (vs. 8-21).
—When you make things personal, you must be willing to “invest” more than words in the resolution (v. 18-19a). Paul was willing to assume full responsibility for any debt outstanding.
—Looking for a greater good (higher purpose) is not only reasonable, it is preferable (vs. 15-16).
—The bond of fellowship is bond around which reconciliation revolves (v. 17).
—The debt of salvation is the basis for self-renunciation (v. 19b).
—The desire to benefit others enables us to be heart-refreshers in Christ (v. 20).
—The power of suggestion yields obedience to Christ leading to reconciliation (v. 21).
—The context for healing is God’s grace. Thus, Paul concludes this letter by saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, as well.
© Bill Williams
July 17, 2007