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Scripture reading for December 11th: Philemon
Forgiving offenses is not an easy task for anyone, especially for those who are in authority. Pride runs deep and the power to get even or make the offender pay brings great temptation, even for Christians. Our short letter today is all about God’s grace and our need to apply it to those who don’t deserve it!
Onesimus was a slave belonging to Philemon. This slave had run away and gone to Rome. There in Rome, he encountered the apostle Paul, who preached the gospel to him, and he was gloriously saved. He served Paul and grew in the faith. But Paul knew that real faith in Christ leads to a godly life and to restitution for wrongs done. As a wise pastor, Paul instructed Onesimus to return to Philemon and to appeal for mercy and forgiveness. Paul wrote this short letter to Philemon appealing to him as a Christian brother for mercy for Onesimus.
“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul–an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus–I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” (Philemon 8-11) It is always love and mercy that leads to true repentance. Paul could use his authority, but then Philemon would just do it out of obligation and not from a heart of love. Paul appealed for his “son”, now a believer in Christ. This slave who is now a “son of God” had been adopted into God’s family as was Philemon. That put their relationship on a different level because both had received grace from Christ.
The beauty of this short story, is that it is the story of our lives as well. We were slaves of sin and because of God’s mercy we have been forgiven much. If we have been forgiven much, we must forgive others their sins. We also need to make restitution where we can with those we have wronged in a spirit of meekness, appealing to the love of Christ! We go from slaves of sin to dear brothers and sisters of Christ and of other believers!