Everyone has a story worth sharing. Every story has a moment of reset. Ever story grows during a time of renewal. And, every story can become a redemption story.
Those core values of this site are all found in one of the shortest letters in the Bible. For the next few posts, we will be looking at Philemon and the way that the book helps us to face conflict, tough conversations and to extend forgiveness.
We begin with the opening verses of the letter Paul writes that we simply know as “Philemon.”
4 Philemon, I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers 5 because I’ve heard of your love and faithfulness, which youl t have both for the Lord Jesus and for all God’s people. 6 I pray that your partnership in the faith might become effective by an understanding of alhat is good among us in Christ. 7 I have great joy and encouragement because of your love, since the hearts of God’s people are refreshed by your actions, my brother. – Philemon 1:4-7
Do you dread having those tough conversations with someone?
Maybe you try to play the situation out in your mind. Maybe you work through all of the scenarios. Or, you might be someone who talks it out — aloud or in your head. Maybe you think of what the outcomes might be.
Do you try to avoid the conflict that the conversation might bring? On a side note, an article in Entrepreneur magazine estimates that in a given work week, employees are spending 2.8 hours dealing with and avoiding conflict. That doesn’t count the conflicts that happen outside of the workplace.
So, maybe there’s something to the reasons we want to avoid the tough conversations.
It’s not just something that we deal with today. This fear and anxiety was also taking place in the First Century. It’s happening to Paul.
For a quick moment, let’s think about Paul and who he is. When we first meet Paul in the Book of Acts, he is known as Saul. And, Saul, is rising star among the ranks of the Pharisees and he sees an opportunity to go to a city named Damascus and to arrest the leaders of the new Christian churches.
Now, this is where it gets all weird and God goes big in giving Saul/Paul one of the greatest “resets” ever. Saul meets Jesus on the way there, Saul is blinded for three days and the person who once hunted Christians is now the one who is helping the new church movement to grow.
Paul is now locked up in prison and he writes a letter to a a friend named Philemon with the hopes that Philemon will also give another a moment of “reset.”
Paul and Philemon are friends and Philemon is possibly the leader of a house church. Onesimus was Philemon’s servant and Onesimus ran away and he found Paul. In the time since he ran away, Onesisum has turned his life around.
He’s now a follower of Christ. He has become very helpful to Paul and his mission of sharing Christ with the world. Paul will refer to Onesimus as a brother.
And here’s why this letter is going to get a little tense. Onesimus has run away from Philemon and from his role as a servant. It is a crime that should carry a stiff penalty and could possibly even cost Onesimus his life. How do you ask another to extend grace and mercy when all of the laws and the standards call for a stiff punishment?
Maybe, in some way, Paul is modeling to us how we approach those tough situations, how we ask others for grace and mercy.
So, here’s how Paul begins in these verses:
- It begins with prayer! Paul is praying for Philemon by name.
- Paul affirms Philemon’s work. Paul’s heard about Philemon’s faith and he lets him know that. Sometimes hearing a good word goes a long way in repairing or establishing a relationship.
- There’s a “next step.” Paul’s praying that Philemon’s partnership in faith will grow. It’s a prayer with a goal for growth.
- There’s love for Philemon. Paul’s words show an appreciation for Philemon’s life, for his love and compassion.
Before Paul gets to the tough question, he works to make sure he has a strong relationship with Philemon. In the posts ahead, Paul will get to the tough question. For now though, it is a time to reconnect.
In the next devotion, we will get into the tough news, but for now, Paul focuses on reconnecting.
Challenge for today: Is there someone in your life who you could pray for, affirm, ecourage and love today as a way to repair or establish your relationship? If you answer yes, then start by praying for that person and your relationship with that person.
ReigniteMyStory.Com is based on the principle that our life stories are reignited when we reset them, renew them and redeem them. Contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter at @reignitemystory
- The Book of Philemon
- The Book of Acts
- “The Real Cost of Workplace Conflict”, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/207196