Philemon 17-25 – A Grace Given For the Work of Reconciliation

God is a being that forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. This truth is deeply embedded in the revelation of God’s character to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:7). As Christians, we so much know this truth that we are tempted to take it for granted. Many a sermon speaks about forgiveness. And when someone wrongs us, the plea to forgive is among the many pieces of advice we receive. Yet, while we know we must do so, we feel deep down in our hearts as if forgiveness is unfair. It is as though to forgive is to be wronged twice, once by the offence committed against us and then by letting the offender ‘off the hook.’ This is why forgiveness is hard.

The answer to forgiveness lies in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Once and for all, in history and person, Christ revealed God’s forgiving character to us. In him we have ‘the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace’ (Ephesians 1:7). He alone extends pardon as he innocently suffers the judgment of God (Luke. 23:34). His ‘blood of the covenant’ was ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:18). Jesus does so because he is both divine and human. In him the sinless God bore the penalty of sinful humanity so that humanity may bear the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The consequence of the cross is that God now calls us to live out this truth daily. With God as our Father, we must forgive (Mathew 6:14-15). In pardoning those who sin against us, we emulate God’s character. But as we see, forgiveness is hard. Indeed, when Peter hears such severe teaching, he asks Jesus how many times he must pardon his sinning brother (Matthew 18:21)? Jesus’ answer is simple.

Forgiveness is no longer an issue of mathematics as the Jewish Rabbis taught. It is a matter of character. And those who desire to act like God have God’s Spirit for their guide. We are to demonstrate our understanding of the gospel by forgiving those who trespass against us, no matter that forgiveness is hard (Matthew 6:12). Only then can we meaningfully pray ‘our Father who is in heaven.’

Forgiveness is hard because it is not cheap. And though it is not free, we must freely grant it. To forgive is to suffer the consequences of the offender’s sin rather than cause them to pay for what they did to you. It is intentional. It is countercultural and counterintuitive. To forgive someone is not to forget. It is to consciously determine to not hold something against the offender anymore or anytime in the future.

The wronged person does this so that the offender may be freely welcomed into the relationship, with time. For reconciliation is the goal of forgiveness. Though forgiveness is hard, it reveals our character and maturity as followers of Christ. Biblical forgiveness seems unfair because the innocent one suffers so as to set the guilty one free. But true forgiveness is the gospel; it is doable in Christ.
Joseph Byamukama

Read Philemon 17-25 and consider the Paul’s call to forgive and to seek reconciliation in these verses. Is there anyone you are struggling to forgive or to be reconciled? How can you, by the Spirit’s help, begin to break down those walls and move towards that person as Christ moved towards you even when you were still in sin?

The Power of the Cross by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Posted on: October 2, 2020 - 2:56PM

Comments are closed.