Read Philemon 1-7.
This most personal of the recorded letters of Paul deals with Paul’s encouragement of a fellow Christian (Philemon) to do right by another brother in Christ (Onesimus), even though the former has experienced some loss through the actions of the latter in time past. Though most of the details of what all transpired between Philemon and Onesimus are somewhat obscure, the heart and soul of the letter could not be more – the way of true Christian life and love together is paved with mutual, constant forgiveness. The real quality of life of every Christian community is only so good as the forgiveness extended within that church family.
Forgiveness, if it is to be a present reality in our lives, often depends in large part on a good remembrance of things past. That is, forgiveness keeps the present wrongs in perspective by diligently keeping, as it were, a “record of rights” (cf. 1 Cor. 13:5) As in this very letter, Paul appeals to Philemon to find it in his heart to forgive Onesimus now on the basis of his, that is Paul’s, remembrance of the good in Philemon’s heart in times past. How does Paul remember Philemon? As Christian brother who, among other things, has been a lover of all sorts of God’s people, a man of genuine trust in the Lord, a helper of him personally (probably financially or with other material resources) and as someone who has just generally been a positive source of goodness for other Christians.
There comes time in all of our lives when a good brother or sister does well to take us aside and give us a difficult word we truly need to hear for our own spiritual good, for the blessing of someone else we are willfully, or even unwittingly, mistreating, and for the good of the church family as a whole. How will we insure that someone will be emboldened to confront in those times when we need a bit of mid-course correction and not be left to our own self-destructive habits? By building habits of goodness in every big and small way each day, when loving each other comes easily and doing right by each other happens gladly. It is in so doing that we not only take good care of our heart for the hard times that will inevitably come, but also fortify our brothers and sisters hearts to help us watch out for us.
Heavenly Father, my prayer to you this morning is that I might be found today to be faithful in the small and easy things of my relationships with others. As you give me days, I know I am forging a reputation for myself, whether for good or for ill. May it be for good, for You, Father, not only that it may be well with my soul, but well for the souls of all those around me. Amen.