I know you will be able to sympathize with me today because all of us have been hurt by someone, whether in deed or in word. Recently, I was offended and hurt by the words of a fellow Christian. I was taken aback by their “feelings” towards me and hurt in my heart because I thought they were my friend. As the conversation was taking place, I was praying to the Lord to help me- to understand and to protect me from freaking out. My flesh was fighting hard to come to the surface, but I was able to restrain myself through the power of Jesus- and only Jesus!
This morning, I found myself in the book of Philemon. I was surprised that I had never really spent any time in that book, but had always kind of skipped past it, or maybe only read a few passages here and there. The epistle to Philemon is a book about restoration, a book about the faith of one man and the forgiveness needed of his brother. As I was reading this book, I noticed a couple of things. Philemon was a man of faith- he had a bible study in his home, and not only was he a wealthy man according to the standards of man, he was also wealthy in love towards the brethren.
Philemon’s brother, Onesimus, who was his slave, had stolen something from Philemon.(God does not tell us what, we can only speculate and draw the conclusion that it was in a monetary form) During his running Onesimus and Paul met. Onesimus became a Christian during that time, and Paul then began the work of restoration. That is where the Lord took me today; He led me to a word that is hard to do- restore.
When someone hurts you, our first instinct is to hurt them back or even to cut them off from our lives- we distance ourselves from them. In my case, I took the brunt of the offense and did as the Lord was asking- I began the process of restoration. This hurt that I was feeling was going to cause me to lose a dear friend in Christ, and that was not a price I was willing to pay. No matter their thoughts towards me, my thoughts are what the Lord wanted to bring into focus today.
Paul tells us in Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” What happens to us when we are offended can lead us down a path of sin. When someone hurts us or offends us, our flesh gets upset, we begin to ponder on it, bitterness for that person grows in us and we end up distancing ourselves from God because of it. Our words and actions toward that person become spiteful, hurtful and we begin to walk in un-love instead of love.
Our reactions are as important to God as our actions. Paul tells Philemon in verse 15 that, “Perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave-a beloved brother.” I wrote a few days ago that God is not surprised by what happens in our lives- because He already knows it is going to happen. To let my heart not forgive would cause me to lose a dear friend and brother forever- is my anger and hurt really worth holding onto if that is the result I can expect? As Paul would so eagerly say, “Certainly not!”
Yes, what was spoken was hurtful, in fact it was disheartening as well, but the Lord God is ever reminding me that restoration is what He is all about. Jesus came to restore the relationship and fellowship between man and God. Jesus died so that we could have an unbroken communion with God the Father. Jesus tells us that if we have anything against our brother we are to go to him and tell him our hurts, and if he will not listen then we are to bring a fellow brother with us and then speak to them. If that brother will still not listen, then we are to leave it and let it go. There are some that will not see what they have done to you as hurtful; some will think that they have done you a service by speaking “the truth” to you. But as I have encouraged you before, and do encourage you now, always go to the Lord and seek His truth first. He will then guide you and direct you on how you are to respond. In my case, His words were to me- forgive and move on. I did speak to my husband and my pastor about the incident, but the Lord clearly told me to let it go and restore this person.
Paul tells us that we are to “restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness”. To restore means to mend. We must mend the broken relationships of those whom we call family- whether they are within the church body, or within our own homes. If we fail to forgive and restore, we will find ourselves bound with the chains of bitterness. Paul knew his fellow brother Philemon had great love for the brethren, in fact he said that he was “hearing of his love and faith which he had toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints” (Philemon 5) Paul was confident that because Philemon loved the Lord Jesus Christ, that he would accept and forgive Onesimus for the things that he had done wrong. Should we not also, who proclaim to love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ be just as forgiving and accepting of those who have wronged us?
I am still struggling a little bit today with the whole situation and the hurt that I am feeling- but my relationship with Jesus Christ and my relationship with the members of the body of Christ are too valuable to me to let any seed of bitterness reside in my heart. All of this happened for a reason, God is not surprised or shocked- He knew it was going to happen before it happened. Now, it is up to me to be obedient to what He has spoken- “restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness.”
Paul leaves Philemon with this encouragement to walk in the obedience of restoration, “Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” (vs. 21) We must all come to a place where forgiveness and restoration become more important than the hurt and the offense we are feeling. We must lay our hurts, our feelings and our offenses down at the feet of Christ, who gave His live for our restoration.
May the Lord Jesus Christ give us all the strength and the heart to forgive, even the smallest offenses so that through our obedience, one might be restored. In Jesus Name, Amen.