I am really excited about what we are learning in Church in the next couple of weeks on the Letter to Philemon. This is because it is all about loving each other as fellow believers like Jesus did, even if that person or group has hurt you or let you down in the past. The letter is written to Philemon from Paul to help restore the relationship between Philemon and his run-away slave Onesimus. However what is brilliant about the letter is that although this is a private matter, Paul wants the letter to be read out in the church. Can you imagine that happening today? A personal and pastoral issue being openly explained ( and also named and shamed) in front of the whole church on a sunday but then equally being welcomed and accepted back together on the basis on God’s grace as a loving family. Do you think we could manage that in church every single Sunday?
It is hard to love people. Lets face it. People let you down, forget about that coffee, make decisions without you, you have nothing in common, your at different stages in life. It is easy to become tribal about friends and relationships. Just like real life Mean Girls. Or look at it another way, relationships on my terms, when and where I feel like it.
Philemon is challenging for this, just look at what titles Paul gives people, ‘Beloved, brother, fellow worker’ . You see how we address people is important because it affects how we treat each other. If you call someone a little S**t then they probably will act like that, but If someone is your brother, you call them your brother, they will act like a brother because you are part of the family. If we belong to a church then we belong to Christ. He is my brother in Christ. He may have wronged me but that doesn’t change his title, he is still my brother in Christ. Paul wants the dominant thing in out relationships from Christians to Christians is to be Jesus. He prays; I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.’
If we are brother in Christ, even when they have hurt you or let you down, you still have Jesus in common. So this is a starting place for restoration is simply speaking about Jesus to each other and reminding each other of the love of God and the cross. The result of this, Paul says is that it will deepen your understanding – you will get to know Jesus better. Surely that is a good thing! This is Grace in action, how about we actually start to putting it into action? Admit that you probably know someone who you would rather run away from on a Sunday morning, take a deep breath and ask them how there Christian life is going. Lets start loving people the way Jesus loves them.