Summary: A sermon examining the fact that as Christians we have been called to forgive those who have wronged us.
Called To Forgive
Philemon 1: 10-16
Chuck Swindoll tells of a seminary student in Chicago who faced a forgiveness test. Although he preferred to work in some kind of ministry, the only job he could find was driving a bus on Chicago's south side. One day a gang of tough teens got on board and refused to pay the fare. After a few days of this, the seminarian spotted a policeman on the corner, stopped the bus, and reported them. The officer made them pay, but then he got off. When the bus rounded a corner, the gang robbed the seminarian and beat him severely. He pressed charges and the gang was rounded up. They were found guilty. But as soon as the jail sentence was given, the young Christian saw their spiritual need and felt pity for them. So he asked the judge if he could serve their sentences for them. The gang members and the judge were dumbfounded. "It's because I forgive you," he explained. His request was denied, but he visited the young men in jail and led several of them to faith in Christ. (Source: Sermonillustrations.com)
What a picture of Christ-like forgiveness. It is one thing to forgive someone of their offenses against you...It is another to be willing to pay their debt. This type of forgiveness is only possible when we live in the Spirit. Human nature desire vengeance. This is not just true for the lost man, even the born again Christian will face moments in the flesh where we are not concerned with forgiveness...WE WANT TO GET EVEN!! Not only do we desire vengeance, when in the flesh we are likely to hold a grudge.
Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident. "Don't you remember it?" her friend asked. "No," came Barton's reply, "I distinctly remember forgetting it." (Luis Palau, Experiencing God's Forgiveness, Multnomah Press, 1985.)
We all know people who claim to be Christians but they have utter distain for certain individuals. In many cases they don't even remember why they became angry at that person in the first place. When I see this I am very concerned about the spiritual condition of these individuals. For the Bible tells us in - 1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
The Word of God has much to say about forgiveness:
Mark 11:25 - And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
Ephesians 4:32 - And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Colossians 3:13 - Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye.
I could go on and on quoting verses about forgiveness. While there is much evidence to support the act of forgiveness. You will find no scripture to support holding a grudge. There is no verse in the Bible that grants you authority to seek vengeance. In fact, the Lord tells us that "vengeance in His" (Romans 12:19)
In Paul's epistle to Philemon we see a Christian man who has been called to forgive. And if you will go home and look in the mirror, you will see a Christian man (or woman) who has been called to do the same. For the past few weeks we have been walking through one of the most beautiful letters in the history of the world. Last week we examined this story through the eyes of Onesimus. We saw "The Transformation Of A Man Named Onesimus". Tonight I would like to look at this story again, but this time through the eyes of the recipient of this letter....A man named Philemon. Let's return to the text and consider the thought "Called To Forgive"
Philemon was a citizen of Colosse. He was a man of great influence among the citizens of that area, he was a trusted associate of the Apostle Paul. In Colossians 4:9 Paul calls him "a faithful and beloved brother". Philemon was a faithful follower of Christ. His life was devoted to serving the Lord and encouraging the saints - Philemon 1:4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, 5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; 6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.