Summary: This sermon is an introduction to Paul's letter to Philemon.
When I served as an Associate Pastor many years ago, a new family started attending Worship Services at our church. After several weeks I visited them in their home. It was awkward because their interaction with each other seemed very argumentative to me. A few months later the Senior Pastor and his wife offered a mini weekend marriage conference at our church, and this new couple attended the conference. The following Sunday morning I asked the couple to share with our adult Sunday school class how they enjoyed the marriage conference. They said that they really did enjoy it. The only part of the conference, however, that they did not need was the section on conflict resolution. I was quite surprised to hear them say that. So, I asked them to elaborate.
They said, “We don’t have conflict in our marriage.”
“You don’t?” I said, with some incredulity.
“No, we don’t throw knives and bottles at each other!”
Well, that is when I learned that definitions are important! For my new friends, conflict only took place when people were throwing knives and bottles at each other! However, most other people would say that while conflict may involve throwing knives and bottles at each, conflict also exists when there is “an incompatibility between opinions, principles, etc.” among people.
And, of course, if a conflict is not resolved, it may lead to sinful thoughts, escalated tensions, broken relationships, violent actions, and perhaps eventually even to war.
So, how does one resolve a conflict? How does reconciliation take place between people who are in opposition to each other? What is the remedy for people who are clashing with one another?
To personalize this, let me ask you: Is there someone with whom you are in conflict? With whom do you need to reconcile? And if so, how do you go about it?
Paul’s letter to Philemon helps us because “Philemon is about reconciliation and relationships between Christians.”
Today is the first week of my new sermon series based on the book of Philemon. I am calling the series, “Forgiveness and Reconciliation.” Over the next few weeks I hope to teach on forgiveness and reconciliation from the book of Philemon.
So, let’s read the introduction to Philemon, verses 1-3:
1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1-3)
The Apostle Paul found himself in prison in Rome (during 61-63 AD). Actually, prison for Paul was more like house arrest, and he wrote this letter to Philemon from “his own rented house” (Acts 28:30).
While in prison in Rome, Paul also wrote letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Laodiceans (although the letter to the Laodiceans has been lost). Paul sent his letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Laodiceans, and Philemon at the same time, probably in the summer of 62 AD, with a man named Tychicus.