Summary: Forgiveness in Philemon
You may be familiar with the 1995 movie titled "Dead Man Walking." The movie is based upon the book (same title) by a Catholic Nun, Sister Helen PreJean. In the movie the figure of Matthew Poncelet is on death row for the brutal murders a teenage couple.
The character is based upon the life Robert Lee Willie.
Debbie Morris was one of the surviving victims of Robert Lee Willie and Joseph Vaccaro. She and her boyfriend were abducted and after being beaten and raped they killed Debbie’s boyfriend. At one point Debbie begged them to kill her and end her misery. They ended up releasing her. Robert Lee Willie and Joseph Vaccaro were captured, tried and convicted. Robert Lee was put to death by lethal injection, while Joseph Vaccaro continues to serves a life sentence in a prison in Colorado.
Debbie Miller has written a book titled, "Forgiving the Dead Man Walking" that tells of the process of forgiving Robert Lee Willie and Joseph Vaccaro for her brutal abduction and repeated raping at the age of 16.
On a radio program of Focus on the Family, James Dobson asked Debbie Morris, "Have you completely forgiven Robert Lee Wilie and Joseph Vaccaro?" To that Debbie Morris replied, "I have. I have completely forgiven Robert Lee Willie and Joseph Vaccaro for what they did to me. And as my daughters grow up I am sure I will have to forgive them in areas I am not aware of at the moment. But Jesus Christ makes the difference and I have and will be able to forgive" (not a direct quote … but several statements combined)
When I heard of Debbie Miller forgiving these men … my first thought was … "I can’t begin to understand what it would take to forgive in that capacity." But then I realized that outside of God I cannot understand forgiveness period. Be the offense big or small forgiveness is a process that only God can accomplish in us. Forgiveness is beyond us … it is the work of God in us.
It has been said that people pay attention to sermons on forgiveness more so than any other subject preached upon. Why is that? Perhaps because we recognize our need of forgiveness, as well our need to forgive.
Solomon in his God given wisdom speaks to the realm of forgiveness as he declares the beauty and honor of being able to forgive.
Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.
Overlooking a transgression is to look beyond the transgression.
As we forgive we bring glory to God ... for we never more like God than when we forgive.
I wanted to introduce the subject of forgiveness in the New Testament book of Philemon.
From this study we will look into the character, action and motivation of forgiveness.
But before we jump into the study of this small book I want us to look at the "Parts of Forgiveness" ... the Principle, the Parable and the Personal parts of forgiveness.
I) The Principle Part of Forgiveness
Principles do not change. Our situations may change but principles stay the same. They are constant, whereas our lives are forever changing. Throughout the Scriptures we are taught three basic principles of forgiveness. These principles are eternal and never changing. They are drawn from God’s Word and are at best simplistic, as where our circumstances to apply them are ever so difficult.
· Principle 1: Forgive those who sin against us.
Matthew 6:12 NLT and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.
Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
· Principle 2: Forgive and be forgiven.
Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Luke 6:37 Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
"We need not climb up into heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven. Let us look into our hearts and see if we can forgive others." - Thomas Watson
· Principle 3: Do not forgive and you will not be forgiven.
Matthew 6:15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Mark 11:25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.
As principle centered people … we are called upon again and again to forgive. The principles of forgiveness are given priority throughout the scriptures to be placed into practice.