Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Our ministry of reconciliation

Onesimus begging forgiveness from Philemon
"Onesimus giving Philemon Paul's letter and begging forgiveness" by Margie Wall
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philemon 1-25

TO CHEW ON: "I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains …. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever." Philemon 10,15

The story behind this one-chapter book is that Paul has met Onesimus, a runaway slave. Onesimus has converted and is currently a help to Paul. But Paul wants Onesimus to be reconciled to his owner Philemon, who is also a Christian. The book of Philemon is the letter Paul sends with Onesimus, asking Philemon to receive him back. It's Paul doing what he has told others to and acting as a "minster of reconciliation" - 2 Corinthians 5:18.

Of course, when Paul talks of being a "minister of reconciliation" in 2 Corinthians 5, the reconciliation he is talking about is first our reconciliation to God.

God was the initiator of this reconciliation and it was accomplished through Christ's death on the cross. Our assignment as such a minister is to tell others about this good news and help them to be reconciled to God too.

But our right relationship with God is not separate from our relationship with people. Jesus' teaching on forgiveness is clear: "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses" - Mark 11:25.

And so here Paul extends his ministry of reconciliation to implore Philemon to do exactly what Jesus was talking about, and forgive Onesimus (implied by "obedience" in Philemon 21).

Paul does all he can to smooth out their relationship. He appeals to Philemon on the basis that they are now Christian brothers. He begs Philemon to take his slave back. He offers to pay for anything that Onesimus has stolen from or owes his master.

I wonder how I would have acted in this situation. What about you? When we see two Christians at odds with each other, what is our first impulse? To take sides? To carry the torch for one and condemn the other? To gossip and perhaps make the rift between them even deeper? Or is it to help them be reconciled? Let's take Paul as our example in this sensitive area. 

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be a peacemaker and reconciler, enhancing relationships between the people I know and becoming a minister of reconciliation between others and You. Amen.


The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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