How Friends Who’ve Hurt One Another Can Heal Together: Part 2
By Jeff Cranston
It’s extremely painful when a friend doesn’t have your back. People know the separation between two committed partners can be devastating, but please believe the heartbreak of a friendship on life support is real, too. Tensions grow, low blows are traded, tweets and subtweets are posted and as fast as a friendship develops, it deteriorates.
Read Philemon 8-16. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to his friend Philemon asking him to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to receive him back. Paul desired to bring these two people together, and the principles he used in doing so are applicable to our lives today. In part one of this blog series, we learned that reconciliation in our relationships begins with showing humility and is supported by sensitivity. Let’s look at three more principles:
1. Reconciliation demands integrity (verses 12-13).
Integrity is being committed to doing the right thing in the right way for the right reasons. Paul believed this, and he was committed to absolute integrity in how he handled the situation. And you can too, here’s how:
Share your heart.
Paul is straightforward: “I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart.” Paul’s words are filled with emotion and feeling. This was not an easy decision.
It is not always easy to expose your heart and make yourself vulnerable. It can be fearful, even threatening. However, God will use it when done as an act of integrity and not manipulation. Our homes and our churches, in particular, would be so much healthier if we would follow Paul’s example.
Be absolutely truthful.
Paul’s honesty is once more a model for all of us. He straightforwardly says to Philemon, “I wished to keep him with me.” Why? “… so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel.” Paul wants to keep Onesimus because he sees him as a son. Paul needs help, and he wants his aid in advancing the gospel and the mission of the church. Complete truthfulness from Paul on all fronts. He has a self-interest, but he is not being selfish.
Reconciliation is best served by voluntary actions (verse 14).
Paul writes, “… but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.” Paul had no thought of keeping Onesimus without Philemon’s consent. Paul did not presume on the fact that he led Philemon to Christ. He did not want to provide extrinsic motivation to Philemon to release Onesimus. He wanted Philemon to make the decision of his own will.
Reconciliation recognizes God’s plans and purposes (verse 15-16).
What do we mean by God’s plan and purpose? There are no accidents or coincidences with God. Paul certainly embraced such a theology. Watch carefully as Paul closes out this portion of his argument:
God’s plans and purposes are eternal, not temporal.
“Perhaps he was for this reason … ” Paul is humble and admits we cannot know the divine mind and plan except that which God has revealed to us.
So Philemon lost Onesimus for a while temporarily, but now he is getting him back forever. He lost him as a slave, but now he gets him back as a dearly loved brother. Paul challenges Philemon to see the big picture. It is good that they are back together, but it is so much better that they will be together forever—not as master-slave, but as brother-brother!
God’s plans and purposes are spiritual, not carnal.
For Philemon, this new spiritual status of Onesimus should be even more special. Why? Because he is getting Onesimus back on both an earthly and spiritual plane. He is getting him back as a brother!
What Satan meant for evil, God had worked for good—the greatest good of all, the salvation of Onesimus!
God uses Christians to reach those without Christ. Are you on the lookout for who God wants to bring to Himself?
Jeff Cranston is lead pastor of LowCountry Community Church, Bluffton, S.C.
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