Monday, June 13, 2016
Philemon 8-9 "Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus."
Truly a Christian is no more like Jesus Christ than when he or she forgives. (Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:13) Today we want to deal with how forgiveness, as it is expressed in the Bible, arises out of delight touched by grace, rather than duty alone.
Forgiveness can only be effective when it arises from grace, rather than duty
Paul writes in Philemon 1:8-9 "Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, 9yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus". Paul's appeal to Philemon could had came out of his authority as an apostle. However, the appeal to forgive is made from the standpoint of "love's sake". Oftentimes when we talk about needing to forgive one another, we treat the subject like a parent of a small child. The child does something wrong (perhaps against a sibling), and when the wrong-doing has been discovered, the parent will urge the child: "what do you say?" The response from the child will hopefully be "I'm sorry". Such rote responses may be how we teach our children when they're young, however the type of forgiveness we are speaking of here won't work under coercion - and Paul knows it.
Without question, the appeal to forgive could had been couched as a guilt trip or even as demand out of sheer obligation. No doubt Paul the mighty Apostle to the Gentiles could issue decrees, thus commanding Philemon to forgive this newly converted man Onesimus. Without question Paul, the prince of preachers, could had laid upon Philemon to forgive Onesimus who had been converted under his time with Paul in prison. Beyond doubt Paul could had used the fact that Philemon himself was a convert of Paul's ministry, and that somehow he "owed" Paul.
If Paul would had done either of those methods, the forgiveness demanded would had been done out of duty, rather than delight. Duty-bound right-living arises out of response to the law of God, whereas delight to do what right emerges from response to God's loving grace.
In our next post we will consider how forgiveness and love go hand-in-hand, and why the logic of Calvary must drive our efforts to truly forgive.