Summary: We are more than willing to receive the forgiveness of others. It is a little harder to be the one who forgives, especially when we have been hurt. Philemon and focus on the question, "Why should we forgive?"
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If you were asked, “What does forgiveness look like?” how would you answer? Let me show you my answer.
Read Luke 15:11-24
This parable talks about the forgiveness of God in all its intensity.
On the one hand we have a greedy son anxious to get his hands on wealth he had not earned. Once he has the cash it is like trying to hold water – soon he has none. While handing food to the pigs he realises the pig sty is just a mirror of his own life … and then he comes to his senses, “My father’s servants live far better than I – I will become one of them.
He did not expect forgiveness; just to be tolerated.
All he wanted was the chance to say to his father, “I’ve been a bum ... but could I just be a slave?”
All he wanted was a roof over his head.
But the father gave so much more.
On seeing his son the father runs to him – and offers forgiveness.
The forgiveness is eager ... it didn’t even wait for the sinner to arrive.
The forgiveness doesn’t draw out the shame of excuses and apologies … instead it embraces and loves.
The forgiveness isn’t reluctant ... the air is heavy with the smell of the best meat cooking in preparation for a celebration.
That’s how God forgives. Eagerly. Totally. Lavishly.
That’s how His forgiveness feels. Its eagerness. Its totality. Its lavishness.
And that’s how we always show forgiveness to each other. With eagerness. With totality. With lavishness.
Well two out of three isn’t bad.
We readily acknowledge that God forgives. Eagerly. Totally. Lavishly
We know what it feels like to be forgiven. Its eagerness. Its totality. Its lavishness.
But it is not so easy to pass it on.
The reason it is not so easy to pass on is because, when we need to forgive, it is usually in circumstances where the hurt has been very personal.
How do you forgive abuse and neglect?
How do you forgive abandonment and desertion?
How do you forgive putdowns and unfair criticism?
It’s all so personal isn’t it. Are we expected just to forgive when it happens to us?
Yes we are. Let’s turn to a small book in the Bible which shows us just how personal forgiveness needs to be.
This book doesn’t talk about forgiveness as a parable, or a principle. The forgiveness here is very personal and very practical. That is why we are going to focus on this little book in the next four weeks. To better understand what forgiveness is.
The main focus of the letter is on a man named Philemon. Philemon became a Christian through the ministry of Paul the Apostle – Paul calls him a dear friend and fellow worker. Paul has great admiration for Philemon and is really thankful for the Christian example Philemon gives.
Now put yourself in Philemon’s shoes. At some stage in the past one of your slaves has run away. Even though you treated him well. Then one day you get a letter ... from your spiritual mentor Paul. The opening lines read as follows.
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother. To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your home: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul the great Apostle. Paul who started many churches in the area. Paul who was instrumental in your conversion. Paul has written a personal letter to you! Then, when you open the letter, you discover a number of facts.
You now know where Onesimus the runaway slave.
Paul spoke the Gospel to Onesimus and now Onesimus is a Christian.
Paul would like you to forgive Onesimus.
If possible Paul would like to keep Onesimus.
Paul also wants to come and visit.
That’s a lot to take in isn’t it. And it is a request which opens a whole range of emotions.
In the early years of our marriage Corianna would use the – ask by suggestion technique. So, if she wanted me to get the blanket which had fallen on the floor, she would say something like, “Are you cold?” Or if she wanted some furniture moved she would say, “Do you think this room looks crowded?” Sometimes it would take me quite a while to guess what she really wanted.
It kind of feels like that is what Paul is doing here.
I would like to keep him with me (vs.13)
He is very dear to me (vs.16)
I do wish that I may have some benefit from you (vs.20)