Before I start the devo I’ve got to say, it’s been a remarkable weekend of worship and life change at my church. Our student ministry had an event we call Elevation Weekend. Our Associate Student Ministry, Joe McKeen led worship with his band. Ken Freeman spoke. It was amazing to see people respond to God. Students and adults discovered what faith in Christ is all about. Believers were challenged in their faith and grew deeper in their walk with God and one another.
Keith Davis – our Student Minister – is a genius. He’s exceptional at what he does. I’ve had the privilege of serving with him now for nearly 15 years. He’s a great friend and one whose legacy has changed generations. It’s changed me. I’m honored to serve with him.
Philemon 1:10-11, “I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart..” (NLT)
Onesimus was a slave. He ran away from his master. Who could blame him? I would run too. I’m not thrilled with the idea that anyone would own me.
He ran from Philemon. No comment in Scripture as to what kind of slave owner Philemon was. No comment as to when all this took place. Paul brags on Philemon. He compliments his faith and good works. We don’t know if Philemon owned Onesimus before or after Philemon’s salvation, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. Philemon was a good man and one of his possessions was ‘stolen’ from him.
That possession ran to where Paul happened to be and became a Believer himself. Onesimus placed his faith in Jesus Christ. He was forgiven of all his sin, the worst thing he would ever do covered by the blood of Jesus. Yet there was a relationship that was broken. Onesimus owed something to Philemon. He could have justified staying away. He could have refused to return. Instead he follows Paul’s instruction and returns to the one who had once been is master. WHY? Why would he return? Why would Paul recommend it?
It has to do with forgiveness, repentance and restoration. In Scripture every time someone repents and someone forgives a relationship is restored. Certainly the nature of the relationship will be different. Paul said it himself. Onesimus is now more than a slave to Philemon. He’s a brother and he should be treated that way. But the truth remains. Onesimus repented. Philemon forgave. The relationship was restored.
We see this pattern time and again in scripture. Repentance. Forgiveness. Relationship restored.
So why doesn’t it work this way today?
It should. I sometimes think we offer cheap forgiveness. We make weak attempts at repentance. There’s a way to know for sure. If I confess and you forgive our relationship will be restored. If I’ve been wronged and you make it right our relationship is restored.
There’s not an example in Scripture of it happening any other way.
Today, who do you need to forgive? To whom do you need to confess? What is the evidence that your forgiveness was received or your repentance genuine? The evidence is a relationship restored. It won’t be the same, but it also won’t be broken anymore.
Thank you for saving me, for the forgiveness you give, for the gift of repentance, for restoring my relationship with you. Help me confess when I’m wrong and forgive when I’ve been wronged. Let the evidence show a relationship restored. Help me fight for healthy relationships with friends, family and the people you bring into my life. Show me where I’ve sought cheap repentance or offered cheap forgiveness. Don’t let me settle for an uncomfortable peace. Help me pursue a relationship restored.
I love you, in Jesus name –