Posted by: mikenicholsblog | May 8, 2017

what is the first step?

It has happened to every one of us. There has been a person on your journey that violated your relational trust. It could have happened in a myriad of ways, but it has happened. None of us goes through life without the disappointment of being wounded and let down by someone close to us. You (and I) may have even uttered the words, “I can’t believe they would do that to me … after all I have done for them.” And sadly, we all have also wounded and discouraged individuals that we love deeply. The tough part —- What do we do after being hurt or wounding another?

The apostle Paul wrote a personal letter to Philemon (one of three personal letters included in the New Testament). The other divinely inspired letters were to Timothy and Titus. This single chapter book has always been a favorite of mine. In twenty-five short verses, we find a picture of a strained relationship, an opportunity for healing, and very clear counsel from Paul. Think about the kinds of hurt you have felt, and then consider how you would accept counsel from the wisest, most godly person you know to restore the relationship. Your first internal responses may be wrought with emotional thoughts like, “you don’t know what you’re asking,” or, “it is none of your business.” But in your heart of hearts, you know that healing is the best remedy.

Philemon was a good man. Philemon 1:4-5 gives a picture of Paul’s feelings toward him.

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.

Philemon was living out his faith well, but there was something going on that needed to be addressed. Even the most godly people are confronted with pain and have decisions to make. Philemon was a slave owner. His slave Onesimus stole from Philemon and ran away to Rome. In God’s grace he met Paul and was converted to Christianity. Look at Paul’s counsel to Philemon in verses 1:10-12.

I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

I wonder if there was any skepticism in Philemon’s mind about Paul’s directives. I certainly would have had some questions. Reading further in the chapter gives even more details about Paul’s desire for Onesimus to go back. The apostle’s counsel was for the benefit of Onesimus, but it was also for the benefit of Philemon. Look at the words of verses 15-16.

It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

Twenty centuries later, this story is still very relevant. Relational difficulties fill the landscape for all of us, even those who are fully devoted followers of Christ. There was a figurative wall between Philemon and Onesimus that needed to be broken down. Onesimus was now a Christ-follower, and in Paul’s wisdom, he knew healing was needed. Philemon had a decision to make … and so do we.  My goal is not to tell you how to heal your hurts (that would be insensitive, at best), but to ask a simple question.

What is the first step to heal the hurt you have experienced or caused?

Pray daily for God’s guidance and the Great Counselor will direct you.


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