I’ve been reading in the book of Philemon for the past couple days and just meditating on what it is about. At first, I wondered why God would choose to add this short and seemingly insignificant letter to the Bible. Out of all of the possible writings, thoughts and stories that Paul could tell about his time in jail and Gods’ revelation to him, why would God use this letter?
After some digging and searching Gods heart, I read and re-read the book several times. It’s not just a correlation to a believer about walking away from God’s will for the lives, rather its the redemption in God’s leadership when someone has fallen into sin, gotten burnt out, or lost vision. When relationships take a hit because we’ve lost our way, Philemon has lots to say on mending those relationships.
Paul writes that he is sending back Onesimus to his master, Philemon, who was a slave owner. The passage isn’t specific on why Onesimus was with Paul in the first place but, Paul writes that he was as close to Onesimus as his son and hated to send him back. He said that Onesimus was useless to his master at one time but he was NOW useful to both Paul and Philemon because of a transformation that took place during some time away.
I wonder if there was some hurt or brokenness between Philemon and Onesimus? Have you gone through a difficult time that caused you to make bad decisions or hurt others due to your own hurt or brokenness? Maybe Onesimus was once a good worker and loyal, but then he got burnt out or frustrated or bitter in some way? Whatever the case, there was a good length of time away and some healing that took place between master and slave. Paul has written to tell Philemon that he is sending back a changed man that is a “true Christian brother.”
Some questions came to mind as I read this passage:
If God himself wrote me a physical personal letter and asked me to mend a relationship that was broken, would I be as kind as Paul expected Philemon to be? Would God know that I would go above and beyond what he asked of me? Would he believe that I would serve this person despite the brokenness?
Broken relationships are hard. Difficult people are hard. But, I want God to know that I am ready and happy to do His will no matter how hard it is or how I sometimes fail.
Maybe you have struggled with a co-worker or boss or church member or friend. Maybe a family member or the father of your children has hurt you. Maybe you have a child that has ran away from God. Is that person working to change? Are they repentant?
As you consider mending a broken relationship in your life, consider the following:
1. Be prayerful about God’s will first. As you are diligent with your prayer, Bible time, and journaling, God is going to speak things to your heart on this situation.
2. As you move towards mending, be careful not to constantly throw up the past, when that person fails or disappoints you. We are all human and all fail regularly. Try to issue grace.
3. Speak kindly and lovingly to those around you. Sometimes, the best thing we can do as God is healing friendships is to speak words that are life-giving. And when we’ve truly forgiven, those words will not only continue to mend our heart, but will encourage the other person to mend as well.
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