Charge That to My Account

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.

An Uncommon Appeal

Sermon Manuscript: An Uncommon Appeal

We all know the pain of broken relationships. Wouldn’t you agree with me? There isn’t a person in this room that has not experienced a divided relationship. As early as childhood, we know what it’s like to get into a squabble on the playground. We all know what’s like to have a friendship that goes sour because of something that was said or done. Some of us know what’s it’s like have a roommate that drives you insane, and you simply can’t get along. And if you’ve ever been married you know that no marriage is immune to hurt feelings or moments of tension. Unfortunately, some in here know the devastation of divorce.

 There’s a common denominator in this—in all broken relationships. Maybe you call it irreconcilable differences. Or perhaps lack of communication. Maybe even an unwillingness for someone to give in. I call it sin. You see, something happened between Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 that has colored all of life. Adam and Eve used to walk in harmony with God. The Bible says they were naked and not ashamed. Meaning there was authenticity, openness, and intimacy with each other and with God. But in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are no longer walking with God in open fellowship. Instead, they’re hiding from him. They’re trying to conceal themselves. It was their sin—their offense against God—that fractured their relationship with Him, and each other. And as long as we still live in the brokenness of this world, we will continue to experience the brokenness of relationships.

 Let me ask you: what did you do the last time someone wronged you? What did you do the last time someone hurt your or offended you? What’s your default response? Perhaps you try to get even. Maybe you go your separate ways. Or perhaps you try to ignore the offense. And instead of dealing with it you allow yourself to grow bitter and resentful.

 What if you’re on the other side of things? If you’re the one who caused the offense, how quick are you to apology? How well do you own your own sin against others? When someone confronts you, do you become defensive and dismissive?

 At some point or another, each one of us is a “Philemon.” We’ve been wronged by someone else. And at some point or another, each of us is “Onesimus.” We’ve been the offender. And of course, many a times we find ourselves so deeply entrenched in conflict, that we find ourselves in both places. But if we want to have healthy relationships, there must also be reconciliation. Sin is never just a personal matter, it’s relational. If you’re not committed to reconciliation in your everyday relationships, one day you’ll wake up a very lonely person. The good news, however, is that the gospel has the power to change all of that.

 We come to the small letter of Philemon this morning. And it’s a letter that tells an uncommon story about reconciliation and forgiveness. We want to spend this week and next, exploring one basic truth before us: The gospel not only changes us, it changes our relationships. The gospel, when encountered, reconciles us to God. But it also has the power to reconcile us to each other. It changes the way we handle conflict, the means by which we forgive others, and the very foundation from which we approach our relationships.