Lesson Fifteen | Devotion #4: Philemon
John Carter | Director of Finance & HR

The power of forgiveness

There is a small short book in the New Testament called Philemon. It has only one chapter, so it is not a long read. The story that it tells is that of forgiveness. It is a powerful story indeed. Before you read this short devotion, I would encourage you to read the book.

The early church did not meet in a big elaborate cathedral or adorned buildings; often they met in fellow believers’ homes. Philemon was one of those early church believers that did this. Paul speaks very highly of Philemon, and you soon see that he is a world changer in his involvement with Paul and other churches in the area.

Paul says, “…because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints… for I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”

Philemon was a man that did much in helping his fellow believers, whether it was from his wealth, home, or other resources, it is known that he gave them to honor Jesus and God.

Paul then pleads with Philemon on behalf of a man named Onesimus, who was most likely a former servant of Philemon. There was a wrong that took place between Onesimus and Philemon which Paul references, “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… for this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”

I find myself reflecting on these words and wondering what Philemon must have felt. A man that had most likely done something wrong to him had come to know Christ in prison with Paul; now they were face to face again. This story may seem like a distant story of two people that were able to work out their differences. However, as I reflect I have to examine who it is in my own life that I might need to approach and ask for forgiveness, or maybe even harder, forgive. The real-life application for me in this is that last phrase, “charge that to my account.” That is exactly what Christ did for us on the cross. How then in our world of processing right and wrong can we not do the same for others? If Christ charges all of our wrongs to His account, does it not seem foolish to withhold forgiveness to others?

Paul concludes it well, “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.”

May the prior statement be said about me! Examine this story and apply it to your own life, maybe you can see the power of forgiveness like never before.

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