Sermon Manuscript: Charge That to My Account
Why is it so hard to forgive others? Perhaps, forgiveness is hard because of the emotional energy that goes into it. Perhaps, forgiveness is hard because some people are repeat offenders and we’ve grown weary of trying to reconcile with them. Perhaps, forgiveness is hard because we simply don’t know how to go about it. Perhaps we don’t desire to forgive at times because we feel that justice must be served. And maybe, forgiveness is difficult because we’ve failed to understand how it is that God forgives us.
The good news is that rest can be found from the baggage of broken relationships. It may be that you carry around the bitterness of something that has happened to you many years prior. It may be that you constantly feel the guilt of a broken relationship. Or perhaps you feel disillusioned by a whole host of fractured relationships. The good news is that Jesus made it possible for you to experience healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
The book of Philemon is the textbook on restoring broken relationships. Paul, writing under house arrest sends to Philemon this short letter regarding a broken relationship. Philemon is a man with a good reputation. He hosts the church at Colossae in his home. He’s loving towards his brothers and sisters in Christ. He’s also a wealthy man. He has at least one, and probably many indentured servants who are working to pay off their debts.
Onesimus happens to be one of those servants. Likely, Philemon treated him well. Paid him the going wage for his work, and treated him as part of the household. One day, however, Onesimus takes off. He steals something from Philemon on his way out - maybe property, maybe money—or both. And he makes his way to Rome.
As providence would have it, Onesimus comes into contact with Paul. Paul most likely was the man who led Philemon to Christ. And because Paul lives to tell people about Jesus, he shares the gospel with Onesimus as well. The word of truth came to him at the right time. In the midst of his brokenness and sin, Onesimus believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is wonderfully saved. He’s a changed man.
But Paul knows that something needs to happen. If Onesimus has indeed been changed by the gospel, he must now make things right with Philemon. And while Paul would love to keep Onesimus around—he’s become his Father in the faith—he sends him back to Philemon. And he sends along a letter urging Philemon to forgive Onesimus. And he doesn’t ask him to merely overlook the offense or forget the whole thing happened. Instead, he makes a passionate plea that Philemon receive him, no longer as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. He urges him to forgive Onesimus and to become reconciled to him.
And the reason why Paul can write this so confidently is that he understands so well the way in which God has forgiven him. This letter is not the opinion of Paul regarding forgiveness. Rather, it is the inspired Word of God. And it’s forgiveness that is shaped by the gospel.
This morning, as we take a look at the latter half of Philemon I want to first spend some time laying out some principles regarding forgiveness. By no means exhaustive, but some general principles that will help us grow in how we wade through the mess of broken relationships.