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Discipleship in a Broken World (pt 2)

Part 2 of How Following Christ Transforms Everything

“Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you–I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus– I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved bother–especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

– Philemon 1:8-16 (ESV)

In these verses, Paul is talking about how a disciple intercedes in broken relationships. When Paul wrote the letter, he put the greetings and who was sending it at the top – that’s how people sent letters then. Unlike us, where we sign a letter at the bottom. Paul has the heart of a forgiven man, if you don’t know what this means – he knows what it’s like to be forgiven and is able to forgive and have grace. If you’re still unclear what this means, read part one of this series.

Paul, as we see, loved Philemon as a brother. He (Paul) has a high regard for Philemon, as he was an established man of power in the Roman Empire. Paul knew that Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, had run away and he had met him.

When Onesimus ran away from Philemon, Paul realized that he wasn’t running away from Philemon, but from God. Paul told him that he could go on and try to run away from God for all of eternity, but it’s useless, because God will always call and chase after us, only to pick us up in his arms and reassure us that we cannot live without Him.

Side Note: You may be thinking – running away. It’s not that big of a deal. I beg to differ. In the Roman world, running away as a slave was a huge deal, as it was punishable by death if you were caught, and you could be put to death right then and there. It also often meant that the master was cruel and such. It was quite a big deal and a huge demeanor to the master in the social realm. Philemon was no such master, he was kind, gracious, and caring towards his workers. But because Onesimus ran away, Philemon was ridiculed and mocked; he was put down by his fellow Romans. Philemon was willing though, to be a teacher. For when Onesimus returned, he was not going to punish him, but teach him.

God asks us, despite being ridiculed and mocked (etc.), to minister to the people who want to be taught. We need to pray for those who do not want to be taught – that their hearts would soften and they’d be willing to hear God’s word.

In verse 11, there is a play on words that the English translation misses. “Onesimus” means “useful” — and in verse 11, Paul said he was once useless to you, but now he is useful. In verse 13, Paul talks about not wanting to send Onesimus back, as he wants Onesimus to serve him while he is imprisoned, and in verse 14, Paul said, “but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”

Paul is saying we need to look from God’s perspective, forgiveness is the key to restoring a relationship. When we accept Jesus, it changes our life, and though you may not feel like their life is changed, God is working in you and you have to have faith and trust and obedience. A kind of forgiveness, the highest form, is when we have to forgive someone, and they know not what they have done. In Luke 23:24, Jesus cries out something similar like this as he is dying on the cross. Bloody, in pain, and suffering the world’s sin, as well as processing the emotional pain of his father turning his back on him, he said these words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

A lack of forgiveness impeded your joy as a Christian, if you hold back forgiveness you will not enjoy the forgiveness God has given us. Letting go of a wrong someone has done against you – whether intentionally or unintentionally – means more than just the words “I forgive you.”
A lack of forgiveness impedes your joy with other Christians – you lose the joy of fellowship.
A lack of forgiveness assumes against the role of God. In Matthew, Jesus says, “Do not repay evil fro evil.”
A lack of forgiveness makes you unfit for worship.
Lacking forgiveness misunderstands the nature of trials.
We need to have a good perspective of ourselves, and it is pride that often gets in our way – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV).

Before wrapping up this post, I want to impose on you a few questions.

– Is it worth being miserable for the rest of your life because of the lack of forgiveness?
– How should you counsel someone who was finding it difficult to forgive someone else?
– What biblical principles apply?

Don’t just read through the questions and answer them in like a three-second answer. Take time, think about it. Write the answer down, if needed to help you truly answer in a truthful and honest way.

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Face it, we mess up a great deal; people mess up a lot. And when we mess up or someone else who misjudges or didn’t consider others before themself at a moment, which affects us… We find it hard to forgive them if it hurts us. Jesus and his disciples had this situation come up many times, and with Easter just around the corner, Jesus himself forgave us for this wrongs we did; one being when we crucified him on the cross.
Now, in one situation, “…Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?'” (Matthew 18:21 NIV). Peter poses a good question, because we all can admit that forgiving (and apologizing) is hard; as it requires a change of heart and mind, and people tire of it (forgiving) when people wrong them a lot (an example of a character in this senario would be a sibling). So what should we do when people hurt us? Forgive them, right? Yeah, but people, including myself, go by a little saying, three strikes, you’re out. seems appropriate, right? Three chances, then they are out. Peter asks of we should forgive people up to seven times. Well “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,'” (Matthew 18:22 NIV). “Seventy-seven times” means seventy time seven. If you do the easy math that’s four hundred ninety times. What Jesus is basically saying is “always forgive” there’s no time limit to how many times we should forgive.
Think of this: what if God hasn’t sent his son to die on the cross to save us from our sins? All I can imagine is a war-torn hell as our world. If God had not forgiven us and sent his son, were we’d be is inconceivable. So the next time someone hurts you physically or emotionally and they apologize (or not, reguardless) always forgive them. It’s what Jesus did for us. We are in his debt, here’s to helping us make up for what we never could accomplish. With Easter coming around the corner, too think of how Jesus died a ravaging and painful death so that we could have eternity with him; of how he forgave us for everything we did wrong; he loved us so very much to do something like that… To die a death unknown to us.

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