Follow the Expert
I just called our city to come on out and give the final inspection for the small barn and greenhouse Mary and I had built in our backyard to handle our tools and store our plants in winter. Randy, who is now on a mission trip in Colombia, did most of the work, but Wally, a master electrician and industrial engineer, got us all wired up with a little help from me.
Wally knew everything it would take and exactly how to put in the service, string the wire, and then make all the connections so that when we threw the switch, there were no flashes or bangs. It’s obvious. When dealing with electricity, obey the masters. We can get ourselves killed if we don’t. And when it comes to reconciling broken relationships between fellow believers, especially household breakdowns, it’s wise to follow the master, the Apostle Paul.
Today as we look back over our study of Paul’s personal letter to Philemon, here are some things that I’ve learned:
- Don’t try to deal with broken relationships alone. It takes a team of engaged, faithful believers to come alongside and help. Note how Paul begins and ends his letter giving the personal names of all those at his side and at Philemon’s side in this family matter (Vv. 1-2, 23-24).
- Ground everything in the grace and peace that only the Lord Jesus Christ can give. It’s not formulas or psychological principles that get at the underlying motivation that will be needed. It’s grace alone. Note how Paul begins and ends his letter with this grace (V. 3 and v. 25).
- Don’t just launch into the problem. Start with prayer and thanksgiving for the person you are appealing to, especially expressing how confident you are of their love and care for fellow believers (Vv. 4-7).
- Take the humble position of a servant and not the power position of the commander and chief (Vv. 8-9).
- When dealing with brothers and sisters in Christ, ground everything in our eternal family and the radical changes this new intimacy with God and with one another makes in our concrete actions toward one another. In God’s household socio-economic, racial, and male-female power positions all are destroyed. We become one at the foot of the cross (Vv, 10 -13, 15-17 ).
- Don’t try to motivate fellow believers to do right based on their duty but allow Jesus to move in their hearts to bring them to act freely and joyfully (V. 14 ).
- Be willing to cover financial obligations from your own pocket and don’t force financial burdens on a fellow believer who was wronged (Vv. 18-19 ).
- Close with a strong affirmation of the confidence you have that your fellow believer will do even more than you are asking (V. 21 )
- Reaffirm your family intimacy with your fellow believer by asking for their personal hospitality when you are together (V. 22).
LORD, it’s easy to look at this list and nod my head about the wise example Paul has provided for me when it comes to reconciling broken relationships between believers. It’s another thing for me to allow your Spirit to give me the kind of love Paul breathes through every word of this letter.
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