Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

The Three People You See In The Mirror

Philemon 1-25

            1 This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, 2 and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house. 3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

            4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, 5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. 6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

            8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. 9 But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.

            10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. 11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. 12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

            13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. 15 It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever.16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

            17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!

            20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

            21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! 22 One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. 24 So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers. 25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

             When Michael Jackson, the self-proclaimed “King of Pop” died on June 25, 2009, the TV and radio became saturated with reports, gossip, video footage, and Michael Jackson songs.

            For the first few days after his passing, it seemed like every Michael Jackson song ever recorded, from his early days with his brothers in the Jackson 5, to his later years, was played on the radio, on every station, all the time.

            One song that I haven’t heard in nearly 20 years became stuck in my mind, replaying itself over and over with every newscast. It was the song “Man in the Mirror.” Do you remember the lyrics to that song?

            The chorus goes,

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

            The phrase that keeps running through my mind this week is this one: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror…”

             One of the principles for reading, studying, and applying the Bible is to use it as a mirror to reflect our lives; either the person we need to become, or the person need to stop being!

            For the month of July, I would like for us to look into the mirror of a little know letter in the New Testament, written by the Apostle Paul to a Christian named Philemon.

            If we could allow the Letter to Philemon to serve as a mirror for us, we will be able to apply the lessons demonstrated to us by Paul, Philemon, and the third main character in the letter, Onesimus.

            Today I would like to give an overview of this letter and introduce the people involved. In the weeks that will follow, we’ll go through each of the verses individually.

            At the very outset we need to know one key fact: Philemon is a personal letter written by the Apostle Paul to a fellow Christian, and friend of Paul, named Philemon. Paul wrote to Philemon to address a very specific incident in Philemon’s life which involved another friend of Paul, and fellow Christian, named Onesimus.

            The heart of the matter is that Onesimus is a slave who belongs to Philemon. At some point Onesimus has run away from Philemon and apparently, taken something of value that belonged to Philemon. During the time that he has been a runaway slave, Onesimus met Paul, who was in prison for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. During their relationship, Paul led Onesimus to become a follower of Jesus. These relationships first with Paul, and then with Jesus, literally transformed the life of Onesimus. He went from untrustworthy fugitive, to faithful follower of Jesus Christ, and co-worker with Paul in Christian ministry.

            Paul had also led Philemon to become a follower of Jesus. The Apostle Paul knew and loved both Onesimus and Philemon. He was well aware that their relationship was badly broken. According to the laws of that time, runaway servants could be put to death at the hand of those to whom they belonged.

            Paul had developed a deep love for Onesimus, and in fact, depended on him a great deal since he was in prison. Paul also loved Philemon and wanted to see the broken relationship between these two estranged fellow believers restored and reconciled. So Paul felt he had no other choice but to step into the middle of this situation and initiate a process to bring these two back together.

             I believe when we look into the mirror of the Letter to Philemon, you and I will see three reflections that speak to each of us, in our lives as well.

            Will you join me on this journey into this very personal letter, and look deeply into it, and allow it to mirror into our lives, ways that God is calling us to live?

            Can you do that with me today?

             Let’s get started!

 1) When we look in the mirror we see the reflection of Paul: The person called to peacemaking (Philemon 10a, 18-19a)

            Listen to what Paul says to Philemon on behalf of his estranged relationship with Onesimus:

10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus…18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it.

             In this letter we see the picture of Paul as the peacemaker; the mediator at work to reconcile two Christians at odds with one another.

            This is a trait of all followers of Jesus Christ.

            Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

            The Bible says we are to “make every effort to live in peace with everyone…” (Hebrews 12:14).

            James says, “…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving…peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17a, 18).

            Followers of Jesus Christ—those who have been reconciled to God by Jesus Himself, are called by God to help reconcile others (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-20).

            Followers of Jesus Christ are people who work to bring opposing sides together in harmony. Instead, we often take sides and add to the division.

            Here is Paul’s teaching to the church on this in Romans 14:19:

            “…we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.

             Paul saw two people that he loved dearly, living estranged from one another. It was his duty as a follower of Jesus Christ, to do all in his power to bring them back together and help them restore their relationship.

           Who do you know that is at odds with someone?

            Who do you know those relationship is strained and distanced?

            What will you do to reach out to both of them and help bring them back together?

            What will you do today…this week…to be a peacemaker?

             When you look into the mirror of our Christian faith, you see Paul, the one called to be a peacemaker…and you know His calling is your calling!

 2) When we look in the mirror we see the reflection of Philemon: The person called to forgive (Philemon 15-17)

            Paul wrote to Philemon:

15 It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever.16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.  17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.

             Paul wrote this letter directly to Philemon. He appeals directly to Philemon to forgive what Onesimus has done to him and to receive him back, not as a slave, but as a brother born into the family of Jesus Christ. Philemon is not only expected to forgive the sins Onesimus committed against him, but he is to welcome him back into relationship with him. He is no longer to see Onesimus as a slave, but as a fellowship disciple of Jesus Christ—a brother in faith. Not only is Onesimus to be welcomed back and forgiven; he is to be set free and promoted to family member!

            Paul appeals to Philemon on the basis of forgiveness-not in the general sense, but in the practical sense. He says to Philemon, “I know you are a faithful follower of Jesus Christ whose love for your fellow believers is widely known. I am asking you to show the same level of love and forgiveness to Onesimus who has wronged you and run away.”

             Paul wrote to Philemon and said these words:

            21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!

            What did Paul want Philemon to do?

            He wanted him to welcome Onesimus back.

            He wanted him to forgive Onesimus for what he had done.

            He wanted him to make Onesimus, not a slave, but a brother in faith.

            And he wanted Philemon to set Onesimus free.

             That’s what it means to forgive!

            It means we welcome back the one who has wronged us.

            It means we not only restore them to right relationship with us, but we promote them to a greater level of relationship.

            It means we set them free from the debt they owe us.

            And it means we set them free from the consequences that they deserve.

             Forgiveness seems much easier to agree to on Sunday morning in church, than it does on Monday morning at home, at school, or on the job.

             Who do you need to forgive?

            Who is it in your life you have become estranged and distanced from?

            What do you need to do to restore that relationship back into closeness again?

            Who do you need to reconcile with?

            Who do you need to set free from the consequences of their sin?

             The Bible says that we are to “forgive one another, just as God through Christ has forgivenus (Ephesians 4:32).

             When you look into the mirror of our Christian faith, you see Philemon, the one called to forgive…and you know His calling is your calling!

 3) When we look in the mirror we see the reflection of Onesimus: The person called to repent (Philemon 11-12a)

            To “repent” means to “turn around, to change direction.”

             In Philemon 11-12 Paul writes:

11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.12 I am sending him back to you.

             Onesimus had wronged Philemon, and then run away from him. Now that he had met Jesus Christ through the ministry of Paul, Onesimus wanted to make things right with Philemon. In order to do that he had to stop running away from Philemon, and he had to turn around, and go back.

             Running away will never result in reconciliation. The Bible word “repent” means “turn around and go back.”

            Go back to the person you wronged.

            Go back to the incident where you sinned and straighten it out.

            Go back to that place of hurt and begin the process of healing.

             Jesus said, “…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

            Repent is to go back and be reconciled; then you can move forward in worship and mission. Until there is the going back, there will never be the going forward.

             When we look in the mirror we see the reflection of Onesimus, and we know we need to repent.

            Who is the person you have sinned against?

            Who is the person you need to go to and be reconciled with?

            What wrong do you need to make right?

             When you look into the mirror of our Christian faith, you see Onesimus, the one called to repent…and you know His calling is your calling!

             In his book, The $64 Tomato, William Alexander writes:

            “If you were doomed to live the same life over and over again for eternity, would you choose the life you are living now? The question is interesting enough, but I’ve always thought the point of asking it is really the unspoken, potentially devastating follow-up question. That is, if the answer is no, then why are you living the life you are living now? Stop making excuses, and do something about it.”

             Where do you need to work for peace and reconciliation?

            “Stop making excuses, and do something about it.”

             Who do you need to forgive?

            “Stop making excuses, and do something about it.”

             What is it that you need to repent of?

            “Stop making excuses, and do something about it.”

             You’ve seen the reflections in the mirror.

            You’ve heard the call of Scripture upon your life.

             Are you willing to stop making excuses and do something about it?

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One Response to “The Three People You See In The Mirror”

  1. Hello, thank you to taking the time to do this. Im currently taking overview of the Bible for school and I had to answer a few questions regarding Pauls letter. Ur blog really broke it down for me and I especially enjoyed how you put ur interpretation on it with the whole Michael Jackson song. Great job!


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