For the last few weeks, we’ve been reading someone else’s mail.
I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, but I’m also sure they never thought 20 centuries later, people would read and reread this letter. Penned between friends living countries apart, its purpose was to authenticate one man’s changed life … not just any man.
A man who ran out on his obligations, disappeared, breaking contracts and trust with his employer. He went on the run, eventually meeting his employers trusted friend, in another country, and ends up having a complete change of heart.
If you missed any weeks prior find them here:
We pick up today, almost at the end of this short writing.
Paul is asking Philemon to forgive any wrong Onesimus has done and treat him as family.
“So if you still consider me a comrade-in-arms, welcome him back as you would me. If he damaged anything or owes you anything, chalk it up to my account. This is my personal signature—Paul—and I stand behind it. (I need not remind you, do I, that you owe your very life to me?) Do me this big favor, friend. You’ll be doing it for Christ, but it will also do my heart good.
Philemon 1:17-20 MSG
Paul authenticates his claims of Onesimus being his son, by saying, “If he owes you anything, I’ll pay for it!” Paul is gracious in offering restitution and restoration for Onesimus. He wants nothing to stand in the way of his family being united: his brother and son.
Have you ever been in this situation?
Someone wants you to forgive them, but doesn’t offer any restorative efforts to acknowledge the damages caused?
In other words: “just forget about it.”
I believe we all have. If not, I am sad to say, you likely will be.
It’s a hard ask.
Your heart may long to forgive them, but no one is owning up to the damages.
I do believe forgiveness is for the offended, not the offender. Forgiving frees my/your heart of bitterness. But acting like it never happened feels like emotional sabotage. You don’t forget when your heart breaks or is sliced opened. Those hurts do not just go away and aren’t forgotten, no matter how hard you try, wish, or even pray.
Time and work can heal, but scars form.
Human hearts remember.
I know the Bible says, God remembers our sin no more, in several places. It says, when we ask forgiveness, through Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God doesn’t “remember” our sins. It also says on the judgement day, we’ll give account for our sins.
These words have often perplexed me.
If God is Omniscient (all-knowing), how can he forget?
It doesn’t add up.
I have come to this resolution. (You may have your own.) God knows all things. He is not human. So, I can’t expect His actions to be explained in a way my human brain understands. He likely, does not “remember” and “forget” in the sense we do. Words were chosen to explain that we could pick up and wrap our minds around. They aren’t perfectly painting the picture we would draw from them.
We cannot fully understand God, our Creator. But, as His created, He fully understands us!
God’s forgiveness chooses not to regard our sin to our penalty. Jesus paid for our sins and therefore, they are not held on our account.
Jesus paid what we can’t and brought restitution to our relationship with God.
That’s the most important part for me to understand.
(Believe me, I have studied many of man’s explanations/commentary on these words. There are differing theories. Which is further evidence to me, that we can’t fully understand it.)
Human relationships involve human minds. We can forget where we put the car keys, but forgetting deep hurts and sorrows is very hard in our finite minds. It is doubly hard when it’s not owned up to.
I’m so impressed with Paul’s efforts to get Philemon and Onesimus back together. Here, he quickly and completely offers to pay any debt Onesimus owes. He isn’t asking Philemon to just forget the wrongs Onesimus did. He is making restitution so that Philemon can move forward in a new relationship with his Christian brother.
Paul was a wise man indeed. He made it so much easier for Philemon to forgive and welcome a changed Onesimus. With joy, he wiped out the debt Onesimus owed, to help reestablish their relationship.
I don’t want to leave you hopeless today or feeling defeated by hurt or brokenness.
There is hope.
First: There is a God who loves you beyond!
Second: Let yourself be human: you have a human mind, emotions. Feelings, hurts and sorrows are part of our world.
Third: If you need help sorting out and through. I highly recommend seeking a Christian counselor. Find your Paul. Someone to walk through this journey with you. (Remember, counselors are human too and not everyone will gel. So, don’t feel bad if you need to go to several before you are comfortable.)
Fourth: Involve God in your healing from the inside out. The Holy Spirit is a great comforter and can breathe life into your broken places.
I don’t have many answers and don’t understand all the hurt and brokenness. I do know it is real. It’s hard, devastating, and disorienting.
I look forward to the day when all of this world is forgotten in view of eternity … till then, I cry, hurt, and have broken places with you.
Next week, we will finish our letter snooping … for now!
Feel free to share with a friend(s).
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