In Christ: A New Social Dynamic

Have you ever had someone do something that really hurt you…or maybe infringed on your rights or took something from you?  Imagine that person coming to you with a note from your pastor saying “This person has really changed and I believe in him/her- please accept them and forgive them and charge me with anything they defrauded you of.”

What would you do? How would you feel? What would it take for you to muster up the strength to go along with that request?

That’s the premise of the short Epistle we’ll be reading this Sunday: Philemon 1-25.  It’s basically a short e-mail Paul sent to a friend of his who had a runaway slave that Paul had met and led to a salvation experience, whom he was sending back to Philemon to ask for his freedom so he could keep working with Paul in Rome. Get it? What comes through in this epistle is how Paul anticipates that the dynamic of social arrangements and relationships will change when they come under the influence of Christ.  In Christ we will treat each other differently than in the dynamic of the broken world.

So – as Paul is talking about this slave, Onesimus, he describes him with terms that are very different from fugitive or slave. What does he call Onisemus in v10 or v12 (in the ESV)?  Considering those words, and his description of Philemon’s and Onesimus’ relationship in v16, what seems to be the overriding dynamic that characterizes their relationship in Christ?

We don’t know what Philemon does after reading this letter. Some people believe the outcome was good and Onesimus went on to great things – but we’ll really never know.

Let’s think about this letter in light of our own lives, shall we? What is one of the prickliest relational problems you’ve worked on recently (it may have been yours, or problems between other people)? What can we learn from this letter that can aid us in navigating difficult relationships?  V18 and 19 are beautiful and profound to me.  Can those verses help inform us about why grace is an important factor in relationships?

What can we learn from this letter that will produce an “in Christ” dynamic in our relationships today?

Hope you can make it Sunday…if so, see you then!

 

3 comments

  1. Father, Child, Brother. It would appear that whatever other social dynamics occur, a familial relationship is to dominate between Believers. A strong family relationship is always self-giving and quite personal. Ready to ask, ready to give.

  2. Well given the situation above, I think the first thing I would do is take a deep breath, consider the source of the request and pray. I might feel overwhelmed or confused initially. I think it would take a trust in the character and counsel of the pastor making the appeal for one who wronged me and ultimately a trust in Jesus for the strength to pull off exactly what He did for us. In similar situations I have had to repeat to the Lord, I may not trust “so and so” but Jesus I do trust you so help me to see them through your eyes. He is faithful to help every time…These situations are the opportunities to live out the very grace we have been given. Jesus took our punishment, paid our debt’s and refused to give up on us. We will sooner or later in our walk with Him be given the same chance to forgive and restore. Paul beautifully reflects Jesus as he tells Philemon to charge him with any debt’s or wrong’s Onesimus owes. Verse 19 sticks out to me when Paul says by the way you owe me your life…I imagine this is in the since that we all are called to lay down our lives for each other and Christ. He is asking him to lay down his right to be right with whatever wrong was done him and to let it go for the sake of the gospel…believe the best about him now that his life is under the influence of Christ… I think that is the best gift we can give to each other…know that Christ is at work in us all to restore us to our full potential in Him. It’s interesting that Onisemus means useful…Sounds like he may have been on the road to fulfilling that!

  3. “so and so” above being the one who wronged me….not the pastor…I hope none of us would stay in a church where we don’t trust the leadership…many of us have already been there done that!!!

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