The sky is always blue beyond the clouds. There is always hope and encouragement here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Just Between Friends

Have you ever been in the middle of a mess between two people and just weren't sure how to behave, which side to take or how to respond?
Dealing with personalities and emotions can often be a very sticky situation. If not handled VERY CAREFULLY it can quickly get out of control.
Let's take a brief look at a scriptural lesson on this.
Philemon chapter one:
We have Paul, in prison, writing to a man and woman that are relatively new Christians. However they are apparently faithful and dedicated and have a church meeting in their home.
In this letter to Philemon  we learn or assume quite a bit. First, we know that Paul knows him personally. We can assume he is a wealthy man because we know he owns or did own slaves. 
As I already mentioned, we know that he and his wife have a church meeting in their home and are very involved in the work of The Lord.
And we know that he owned a slave named Onesimus.
Now we don't know many of the actual details of Onesimus, but based on this writing we assume that Onesimus has run away from the bondage of Philemon. We don't know why, we cannot speculate. We just know that he did.
Somehow Paul comes to know the slave Onesimus, perhaps in prison. And over the course of time Onesimus gives his life to The Lord. 
Now he wants to return to Philemon. (We don't know the reason of his return.)
Paul is writing this letter to inform Philemon that Onesimus is now a loving, willing, servant of The Lord. He is asking Philemon to lay aside his personal feelings toward Onesimus and accept him as a fellow believer. 
Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. (Philemon 1:20 NASB)
Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say. (Philemon 1:21 NASB)

Please take a few moments and read this chapter for yourself.

So, here is where my imagination takes over. I see Paul and Onesimus meeting up in prison, maybe Onesimus is a prisoner because he ran away and was caught or maybe he is a worker at the prison cleaning cells, but somehow they meet. 
As always, Paul is sharing The Lord with everyone and Onesimus becomes a believer.
Perhaps as they are getting to know each other Onesimus mentions his hometown and Paul says, "I have good friends there. They have a church meeting in their home. When you leave here, maybe you can gather there with them." And he mentions their names.
"Oh, no," says Onesimus. "I could never go there."
And this is how Paul learns the situation.
Was he expected to take sides?
Was he given accurate information or was it slanted by Onesimus in his favor?
We don't know.
But we do know that Paul convinces Onesimus to return to Philemon.
And when Paul writes to Philemon he doesn't accuse or seem to favor one person over the other. No, he was a very good example of a mediator.
He did not take either side, he just encouraged both people to do the right thing. 

After all, wasn't Onesimus going to Philemon? I'm sure he is very afraid to do so, to face the owner that he had wronged. His very life could be in danger.
But he is carrying a hand written letter from Paul, encouraging Philemon to no longer see Onesimus as a piece of property but to see him as a forgiven, beloved, child of God and fellow heir. In other words, in every way an equal.

I sure hope if we are ever faced with "being in the middle" that we would be like Paul. Do the right thing according to the Word of God, encourage others to do the right thing according to the Word of God.  And Speak well of both sides to the other instead of speaking bad. 

Again I ask you to read this chapter and think on it today. 

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