I have this memory from when I ran after-school programs and two kids came up upset and crying. They had a misunderstanding, which led to name-calling, pushing, and hurt feelings. It all started because they wanted to be the same character in the imaginary game they were playing. After a lengthy conversation and sorting out the details, they had everything resolved and were having fun playing together. Forgiveness and reconciliation happened after cleaning up some of the mess because both had a basis of love. Of course, they needed someone to step into the mess with them. Paul gives us a good example of someone who wasn’t afraid to step into the mess of forgiveness.

In the case of Philemon and Onesimus, Paul stepped in to help broker a broken relationship that needed healing. At times, we can all use a little help in this way, and sometimes we might even be called to help. Paul did something that I think is really important in appealing for forgiveness. In verses 5 and 7 he used two simple words to establish a base of forgiveness, “your love.” Paul was encouraging Philemon of the reports he had heard from others and how it was Philemon’s love God used to work so powerfully among the people he ministered to. Paul was creating a foundation for forgiveness with Onesimus by reminding Philemon of the love he has freely given to others.

The basis for forgiveness is built upon Jesus’ love for us. It allows us to see others differently, it allows us to extend the forgiveness that was extended to us because we have all we need in Jesus’ love. Of course, it can still be messy and it might not look like what you have pictured. As followers of Jesus, we might be called to make the appeal of forgiveness. Here is my encouragement to you, if you find yourself in the middle of messy forgiveness, start with Jesus. You might be playing the role of the peacemaker or advocate, so be ready with truth and love, be ready for a little mess. Paul was ready for the possible cost of forgiveness and he appealed to Philemon anyway because it was what he was called to do. So be ready and be willing to appeal to the people you love when it is needed. If you need any help or someone to talk through this process with you, we are here to help, just let us know.

Pastor Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor

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