Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Peacemaker

The rebellious & useless young slave Onesimus escaped one night, stealing from his owner on the way out.  This was illegal, immoral, and a betrayal of trust.  Philemon, the betrayed owner and victim must have thought he’d surely beat Onesimus to death if he were ever to return to their town of Colossae. 

Sometime later Onesimus did return, voluntarily, and he carried a letter from a mutual friend for Philemon.  It seems both slave and slave owner had, since their separation, both become disciples of Jesus.  Paul was a close friend of the owner, Philemon.  While Paul was in prison, arrested for his faith, he met a young criminal and escaped slave named Onesimus and baptized him.  And when Onesimus was released from prison, Paul became the peacemaker in their relationship. 

Paul wrote a letter of reconciliation to his old friend Philemon.  Morally, ethically, and legally – Philemon had the right to punish this criminal slave, but Paul asked him to forgive and welcome Onesimus back home.  Furthermore, he asked Philemon to go the extra mile.  He asked that Onesimus not only be welcomed home without punishment, but that he should even let him have his freedom!  Can you imagine?  He is actually asking Philemon to basically reward Onesimus’ bad behavior!!  Unthinkable

Two of our beatitudes are in this story: Paul plays the part of the peacemaker, and Philemon was asked to be merciful and forgiving – to give grace and extend the hand of fellowship.  

Peacemakers ask their brothers to do the inconceivable: to be merciful like God.  Peacemakers are the kinds of people who have the difficult task of convincing the Prodigal Son’s older brother to welcome home his sinful, rotten kid brother. 

Paul was just such a peacemaker.  He labored incessantly to reconcile sinners to God, Gentiles to Jews, people at odds in lawsuits, slaves and owners, rich and poor, families and fellow church members.  In fact, Paul would describe the whole of his ministry as one of peacemaking or reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:16-21). 

Now consider your own situation … have you accepted Jesus’ challenge to be a peacemaker? 
If so, you’ll be called a child of God – by God Himself.  So now think: do you know someone at odds you can help reconcile?   

PS: The letter Paul sent to Philemon is found in your New Testament – check it out.  And after you’ve studied it some, challenge yourself to be a peacemaker, a reconciler, a child of God. 

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