The Art of Reconciliation

Philemon 19-20 

Demand that you’re right, call each other names, punch and counter punch, and accuse the other side of diabolical motives…   Washington D.C. gives us daily insights into what happens when the art of the deal is carried out with pride, belligerence, and isolation from both sides. I actually don’t expect peace, harmony, and love from Washington, but I do expect them in the Church.   I’m excited about the opportunity that we have to apply the art of reconciliation we’re learning from Paul in Philemon. 

A crisis has hit one of the house churches in the city of Colossae meeting in the home of Philemon, a master who came to Christ through the Apostle Paul’s ministry. One of his slaves has seriously wronged him. Tactfully, the Apostle Paul never explicitly tells us exactly what the slave, Onesimus, did. He does tell us that Onesimus has somehow come in personal contact with Paul during his time of imprisonment in Rome.  He has come to faith and has become a beloved son caring for Paul’s needs. Paul would love to keep him right there, but he doesn’t want to take advantage of Philemon. So, he sends him back to Colossae and Philemon’s house.   

What’s incredible is that he appeals to Philemon to welcome home his former slave who has wronged him, not as a slave, but as a beloved brother in the faith. Paul even tells him to welcome Onesimus like he would welcome Paul, himself. And as he closes, Paul picks up the quilled pen and finishes the letter with his own hand. 

“I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will repay what is owed you—and I won’t mention that you owe me your very life. Yes, brother, I’m asking to receive benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.” 

If Philemon would open his arms to Onesimus as a precious brother with a love that poured forth from their intimacy with Jesus, Paul says it would revive him. We need this kind of reviving in our relationships with fellow believers today. By demonstrating this kind of family love, we can revive not only brothers and sisters in Christ, but also model for others the art of reconciliation and move unbelievers to get in on this out-of-this-world kind of love. 

LORD, I can remember some tough situations in the past where I tried to get brothers in Christ to turn away from their intense anger and treat each other as brothers. I should have used more heartfelt appeals to their eternal relationship like Paul did, and taken a more humble role. Help me to apply what I’ve learned from this book in the future. 

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