When you’re staring at the same four walls for weeks and weeks on end, it is easy to think about “what I want” and “what others need to do for me.” If any Bible character could have thought like that, maybe Paul could have when wrongfully imprisoned in Rome for “two whole years” (Acts 28:30), but he did just the opposite. Paul had his mind firmly fixed on others and was trying to reconcile differing groups, including “the Jews” and “the Gentiles” (28:28-29). During this time, Paul wrote a letter to his Christian friend, Philemon, about the need to reconcile his relationship with Onesimus, as brothers in Christ.
While in quarantine, Paul focused on “receiving” a brother who has wronged you, in order to bring about reconciliation. The key word in Paul’s letter to Philemon is the word “receive” (v. 12, 15, 17). There may have been some other verbs that Philemon would have liked to have exercised toward his runaway slave who had “wronged” him (v. 18), but to “receive” him, and “no longer as a slave” (v. 16), would have been a real challenge. But reconciliation “in Christ,” done properly, takes real effort.
While in quarantine, Paul focused on “love” in response to a brother who has wronged you, in order to bring about reconciliation. Some form of the word “love” is found six times in this short letter. Paul referred to Philemon and his wife as “beloved” (v. 1-2), and then bid him to see Onesimus as “beloved” (v. 16). Paul praised Philemon for his agape “love” (v. 5, 7) and bid him to respond for agape “love’s sake” (v. 9). Unconditional, unselfish behavior that puts another above self can be a real challenge. But reconciliation “in Christ,” done properly, takes real effort.
While in quarantine, Paul focused on seeing one who has wronged you as a “brother,” in order to bring about reconciliation. Paul used the word “brother” four times in this letter, referring to Timothy as “our brother” (v. 1) and referring to Philemon twice as his “brother” (v. 7, 20). As much (and no less) as Paul, Timothy and Philemon were all “brothers,” so was Onesimus. In fact, he was to be seen as “a beloved brother” (v. 16). Seeing (and then treating) one who has done you wrong as an equal “brother” can be difficult. But reconciliation “in Christ” takes real effort.
While in quarantine, Paul focused on “Christ” as the key to bring about reconciliation. Onesimus was a brother “in the Lord” (v. 16), and Paul longed for Philemon to bring about “joy” and refreshing of heart “in the Lord” (v. 20). Christ is the reason and the only means by which true reconciliation can be accomplished. It takes effort, but so did the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to reconcile us to Him!
With all of this extra time on my hands, with whom do I need to work on being reconciled in Christ?