Published by Barnabas International • PO Box 11211 • Rockford, IL 61126 • Volume XVIII • No. 7 • July 2004
LEE HOTCHKISS, Executive Director <> LAREAU LINDQUIST, Founder
The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. In fact when Jesus was asked "what is the most important commandment of all?", He answered by saying that love is the most important commandment of all. He then amplified His answer by speaking of the two most important directions of love . . . vertically between you and the Lord and horizontally between you and other people.
Perhaps the most intimate epistle of Paul's thirteen epistles, which also happens to be his shortest epistle, is his brief letter to Philemon . . . only one chapter in length (468 words). It is rich in its emphasis on relationships. Three individuals are the focus of the chapter.
Paul writes to Philemon and urges him to take the initiative in restoring his fractured relationship with his former slave, Onesimus. Paul assumes the important role as peace-maker in bringing these two people together.
Philemon is identified as a godly man known by all to be an encourager and a refresher. Yet he is in a severely broken relationship with Onesimus.
Onesimus was once a slave to Philemon. He escaped from his job with Philemon, thus becoming a runaway slave and possibly a thief. After leaving Philemon, he became a Christian through Paul's ministry to him, likely in prison.
Paul's epistle urges Philemon to take the initiative in forgiving Onesimus. He urges him to welcome Onesimus back into his friendship . . . to love him and to forgive him.
FORGIVENESS is modeled by God to us. We learn to forgive by learning it at the feet of Jesus. Paul states this clearly:
· Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
· Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).
Onesimus had wronged Philemon yet Paul appealed to Philemon to take the first step in the process of reconciliation. Always, we are to take the first step . . . even if we feel that we are not guilty . . . even if others agree with us that we were wronged . . . even if the offender continues to hurt us . . . and even if the offender is dead.
The pain and hurt of fractured relationships is costly. Dr. Ronald Rand makes some very practical suggestions.
· Admit, to yourself, the pain it is costing you.
· Express the pain candidly to the Lord.
· Outwardly and symbolically release the pain. He makes this powerful suggestion. Take a nail and hold it in your hand, squeezing it tightly. Don't rush. Take the time to feel the pain. Eventually open up your hand and release the pain. Take the nail outside. Dig a hole and bury it. Prayerfully commit the release and the forgiveness to the Lord. And by God's grace, remember it no more. But you say, How can I do that?
When the offense returns to your mind, let it go. Refuse to replay that old offense again. It is your choice whether you replay it again and again or if you decisively refuse to do it.
Elsewhere Paul writes, As much as lieth within you, live at peace with all men.
What bruised relationship comes to your mind? What will you do with it?