Summary: In his letter to Philemon, Paul strikes to the heart of true discipleship addressing what ought to be the motive for all of our actions as believers. Compassion not compulsion should to be the rule of faith that governs our decisions and actions.
Compulsion or Compassion
Introduction: Though one of the smallest books in the Bible, Philemon holds a treasure trove of spiritual instruction in practical Christian living. In his letter to Philemon, Paul strikes to the heart of true discipleship as he addresses what ought to be the motive for all of our actions as born-again believers. Compassion not compulsion should to be the rule of faith that governs our decisions and actions.
I. Forgiving out of compassion not out of compulsion
A. Onesimus had been a servant of Philemon, a wealthy Christian in Colosse. He had apparently robbed his master and fled to Rome where he met the apostle Paul. Through Paul’s ministry Onesimus came to Christ. Paul intercedingly sends him back to Philemon asking him to accept and forgive Onesimus.
B. Philemon 8-12 “Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting (required), yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you – being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ – I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart”
C. Forgiveness is at the very foundation of our Christian faith. Without forgiveness there is not one of us who would be saved and be a child of God.
D. Unfortunately, Christians can often be the most unforgiving people on earth.
E. Charles Stanley defined forgiveness as “the willingness to give up your resentment toward someone who has wronged you, regardless of how serious or painful that wrong might have been.”
F. When a person does something against us, it’s as if they have created a debt, they now owe us. When we refuse to forgive it’s as if we are expectantly waiting for them to pay us back … in fact we don’t wait, we begin to exact payment from them… we tear them down in front of others, we give them the cold shoulder, we actively inflict emotional pain on them, and we may even seek some form of revenge. – Fausel, Our Savior Lutheran Church, 0ctober 2009.
G. But as Christians we are commanded to forgive –
1. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
2. Colossians 3:12-13 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
H. Byron Paulus, Executive Director of the revival oriented Life Action Ministry writes that... “After reaching out to more than four million believers in 6,000 churches during the past four decades, our team of revivalists would unanimously concur that the number one problem they encounter is unforgiveness. Bitterness is rampant. Forgiveness is not.” - copied
I. Unforgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for the offending party to die!
J. Many Christians aver “I have to forgive but….”
K. Our forgiveness should not be based on obligation but on the same basis that we were forgiven by Christ – love.
L. Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”
M. Christ forgave us not because he had to but because He loved us.
N. Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
O. We base our forgiveness on what God has done for us, not on what another person has done to us. (Kent Crockett, The 911 Handbook, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003, 43)
II. Serving voluntarily not reluctantly
A. Philemon 13-17 “whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave – a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.”
B. Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”