Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Little Letter With A BIG Impact!

Last Sunday‘s sermon was excellent!! In fact, it is one of those sermons that I don’t think I can possibly explain or articulate as well as the original speaker. It’s part of the reason why I haven’t gotten around to blogging it until now because I didn’t know how I could possibly deliver it as well as Craig did. This is definitely one you’ll have to hear for yourself because Craig talked about a book of the Bible that we probably don’t think about much: Philemon.

The book of Philemon is one of Paul’s letters. It’s a little letter, but it carries a BIG impact! In it, he was asking Philemon to show kindness to his runaway slave Onesimus. Craig explained that runaway slaves were typically executed if they were found. Therefore, Paul was pleading for Onesimus’s life and even offering to pay any damages that he might have caused. He even referred to Onesimus as his son and his very heart. Therefore, Paul was hoping that Philemon would receive Onesimus with just as much love as he would if it were he, himself, coming to him.
Awww. Isn’t that sweet? To us,….yes. To Philemon,….possibly not. Reading such a glowing letter about his runaway slave might have been a hard pill to swallow. Imagine what emotions you might have if your best friend wrote you a letter telling you that their love and blessing is on someone who wronged you. Now, imagine that they are telling you that this person is their very heart and like their child. And, if that weren‘t enough, they would now like you to welcome that person into your home. That could be pretty hard couldn’t it?

I’m sure Philemon really had to wrestle with how he was going to treat Onesimus once he read the personal letter from Paul. Out of love and respect for Paul, and as a Christian, he should forgive Onesimus and accept him back. Also, Onesimus had accepted Christ because of Paul’s ministry, so now Philemon has even more reason to do the right thing since Onesimus is now a brother in Christ. However, I’m sure he wrestled with a lot of negative feelings. Maybe he didn’t want to forgive and accept him back. Maybe he was bitter, angry, and frustrated with his slave to the point that he couldn’t put those feelings aside. Maybe he even doubted his slave’s conversion just as the apostles had originally doubted Paul’s.

Paul obviously understood this. This is why Paul approached the issue so gently. He began the letter by esteeming Philemon for his character and faith and asked his friend to show the kind of mercy to Onesimus that he would show to others. (Ha! Nothing like getting your faith thrown in your face!). So, that likely would have been an “Oh! He got me there!” kind of moment.

So, what did Philemon do? We don‘t know for sure, but Craig cited another source (and I can’t remember what it was - you‘ll have to listen to the message for yourself if you want to know) that suggested that things turned out alright. I’m sure that would have been a great encouragement to Paul considering that he knew what it felt like to be a “prodigal son” himself. Not only had Jesus accepted him, but the disciples even learned to accept him as well - even though they were reluctant and fearful at first because of his past.

I’m sure we all have Onesimuses in our lives. We all find it difficult to love, accept, and forgive others sometimes. It’s even harder when those people are in our own home and we have to live with them every day (just like Philemon and Onesimus living under the same roof). Craig even shared a real life example regarding a pastor who had a hard time coping with the news that his son had gotten a girl pregnant. He just couldn’t accept it. He just couldn’t forgive his son for what he did to embarrass and disgrace the family and the ministry. However, the pastor’s wife had a way of softening his heart. She reminded him that she had also put up with a lot of his own mistakes and that she had always forgiven him. She asked him if for only her sake and his love for her, could he forgive his son? Thankfully, he did!

That was the same question Paul posed to Philemon. Could he put aside his feelings and do this for the love of a friend and for the Lord? Could I? Could you??

This was an amazing message to hear. Click on the link provided if you would like to hear it for yourself. (I am also providing the link to the “fig tree” message- which I mentioned last week in my blog as an ABSOLUTE MUST HEAR!!! Don‘t cheat yourself out of this one!!).

I know this message blessed so many people; including myself. It’s definitely something I will always remember and carry with me. Just like anyone else out there, I have had “Onesimuses” in my life. And, I truly do want to live at peace with all of them; for their sake, my sake, and the Lord’s sake. May God give us all the strength to have the love and character of Philemon so that we can love and forgive our Onesimuses. Grace and peace to all of you!! God bless you!!

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