Philemon: Forgiveness that Leads to Reconciliation, part 4 (Radical Reconciliation)

What follows is a manuscript from a sermon I have preached on a few occasions.  I walk through the whole book of Philemon.  Love to have you follow along in this series.  My prayer is that it will inspire you to “forgive as you have been forgiven…” The rest of the 5 part series is here.


At the core of the message of Jesus is one of reconciliation: he put back together our broken relationship with God through his death and resurrection.  Not only so, but this is the model that we are told to imitate in our relationships with each other.  The New Testament constantly reminds us that nothing should divide us… we are all called to sit at the same table.  In the letter that was sent along with this one, “Colossians,” Paul reminds them of the reality of reconciliation…

19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Colossians 1.19

God is in the business of reconciliation.  This passage demonstrates the largeness of Gods reconciliation, but then Paul brings it into simple practicality a couple of chapters later…

13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3.13

Can you imagine being part of the church in Colossae?  You listen as this letter to the church is read out loud to the community.  And you are gripped with the reality of God’s desire to reconcile all things through the cross.  But then you hear that we are to do the same exact thing in regards to how we treat each other.  We are to forgive as the Lord forgave us through the great act of shedding his blood on the cross!  Whoa…  And now we have Philemon who has been wronged by this runaway slave.  Not only has Onesimus fled his work, but it seems that the situation also lent itself to thievery.  Paul makes this clear in the next couple verses.

17So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.

Paul says that if Philemon is truly his “partner”… that Onesimus must be welcomed as a “partner” as well!  This runaway slave is no longer simply a slave, but a dear friend and a partner in the mission of God!  To harm this partner in the faith would be just like harming Paul.  If Philemon retaliates against his slave by branding his forehead with an “F”…  Paul says that Philemon will be actually doing this to him as well!

Paul says: “yeah, I know that he ran away.  I know that he stole stuff from you.  I know that he has failed to be “useful” or profitable but, Onesimus is now our partner in the business of the gospel and we belong at the same table!  The partnership we have, this deep fellowship, must be also extended to your slave, but by the way, he is no longer a slave…in fact, he is better than a slave… he is your dear brother!”




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  • Bowdenfan

    Forgiveness is something that can truly save you from slavery to hate, rage, judgement and exclusion. I thought I had it figured out. I forgave those that hurt me, had a long talk with God about it. I worked on it for a long time and I forgave them. I felt good for awhile then the pain came back and I had forgive them again. That is the thing with forgiveness, you have to keep doing it. Eventually I stopped doing it and then it got worse because I started piling all the blame on me. It became so hard to continue to forgive so I took it on and it almost killed me. The rage and pain was now directed inward. Now I am working on forgiving myself and thos others, it will be a constant in my life; gotta keep forgiving.

  • John F

    I listened to a speaker a few weeks ago, one who had suffered tremendously as a child by her own family, and I was amazed when she attributed justice through the cross! It was an amazing liberation – we need not seek justice – it has already been served, through Jesus Christ. She was able to let go of her anger and vengeance by deepening her relationship with Jesus. While I’ve often heard of salvation by Jesus, I’ve never quite heard the justice angle. He died for not only for our sins, but also for those who’ve wronged us. Justice has been served.

  • Bowdenfan

    I don’t even understand what it means to have salvation through jesus. I thought I was doing that yet I still couldn’t forget about my suffering at the hands of other. Seems like I circled around and came right back to anger. Frustrating to say the least. Honestly I am frustrated with God most of the time but mainly when it comes loving me. I don’t see how it can be done

  • As i mentioned I would do, here is the link i made to my FPU students writing on Philemon:

    Keep up the good work!

    • Great! Thanks… I will get the conclusion up this week!