I was recently in a conversation with a group of guys over the New Testament book of Philemon. It is a short book. It is only one chapter, twenty-five verses in all.
And yet, this short book gives testimony to the power of the gospel. The gospel has the power to heal broken relationships.
Are you familiar with the problem in Philemon? It is very personal.
Philemon was a close friend of Paul. He had partnered with Paul in the work of the gospel in the area of Colossae. Philemon was wealthy, and like many wealthy people of his day, he owned slaves.
One of the slaves he owned was a young man named Onesimus. Onesimus had run away to Rome, probably having stolen something from Philemon. As Providence would have it, somehow Onesimus encountered Paul who was in prison.
Through his encounter with Paul, Onesimus came to faith in Jesus and his life was changed. In fact, Paul gives testimony that Onesimus is “useful” to Paul (v. 11).
So, Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon to make things right. But in sending Onesimus back to Philemon, Paul is asking Philemon to forgive his runaway slave.
But he doesn’t just ask him to forgive the wrong that was committed. He asks Philemon to receive this slave as family. In verse 16, Paul asks Philemon to no longer see Onesimus as a “slave” but as a “beloved brother.”
Why? Because that is what he is! Onesimus is now Philemon’s brother in the Christ. Since Philemon considers Paul his “partner” in Christ, he should also consider Onesimus in the same way.
In other words, the gospel reminds us that we are all on level ground when it comes to our relationship with Christ. This is the power that comes from the gospel. It changes how we view each other. It gives us the grace and the humility to forgive and receive each other.
In other words...the gospel has the power to heal our broken relationships.
Is there someone you need to go to – like Onesimus – to make things, right?
Is there someone you need to forgive – like Philemon – to embrace as a brother or a sister?
What gives us the power to do these things? It is the gospel!
Because we are equal at the foot of the cross, we can extend grace and mercy to each other. That is the power of the gospel on display.
May it shine through us.
A great summary video of the book of Philemon is included at the beginning of this blog.