Reading my Bible the other night I happened upon a very short letter that Paul wrote. As I began to read I wondered what could be gained by reading this short letter to a man named Philemon?
Philemon was a wealthy man owning some slaves. It seems one of his slaves (Onisimus) had stolen from him and ran off. Apparently Paul had been responsible for Philemon becoming a Christian (verse 19). Omisimus found the Lord under Paul’s ministry and was looking after him while in prison. Paul wished for him to return back to Colossae. The issue is easy to see as in those days a slave received a death sentence for not only running away but also stealing from his master.
The stage is set and the predicament is grave. Paul wishes his friend to return home but what could await him is death. I notice that Onisimus must have much trust in Paul and feels confident he would see to his safety. Paul also is confident he can remedy the situation. Paul very carefully words his letter so the right response would happen.
Life brings with it many times when such issues come to each of us. Handling these situations can go one of two ways. The results can be good or they can be bad. Reading this letter can give you a way of handling these problem areas in our lives. How does Paul handle this situation?
First I notice that this is a confrontational letter. Though it is not a face-to-face meeting it could be. Then I notice that there is nothing negative mentioned. He begins by telling Philemon of his memory of his character. Notice he reminds him of his faith and love and the good things each has in Christ. Then beginning in verse eight he begins his appeal. Note also that he tells Philemon he could be harsh but prefers to bring some things of importance to his memory. He tells of Onimus becoming one of them in the Lord and all he has done for Paul. He pleads his case by telling of his changed life and how now he could be of great benefit to him. Turning things around Paul asks for Onisimus not to be considered a slave but a brother. While making his plea Paul brings their friendship into play and how all this would be the right thing to do. Reminding him again of what Christ would have him to do and their relationship with Jesus as partners and brothers. Last Paul agrees to make good if anything is owed him and in a positive way that he must do as asked because of his obedience to Christ.
When a troublesome situation comes your way how do you handle it? We could blame or become judgmental. We could come in anger and rain down on the person. Or we could take this example and follow Paul’s procedure.
Come to the person in love attempting to soften the situation by reminding the person of the good that is in them. If the person is a Christian begin with a prayer of complimentary features the person may have. Then it is good to remind the person of the ways the situation could be handled bringing a favorable result to both parties. Again if both parties are believers bring to light some of the teachings of Jesus regarding faith, love and mercy. Finally if the person or persons are beholding to you in any way, remind them of that.
We tend to bring tough situations to a head when we try to establish our rightness and their wrongness. If we have a negative confrontation nothing will be resolved. Inflammatory remarks usually cause trouble. If you are looking to actually resolve a problem remember this short letter of Paul’s. This was a serious problem that could have brought bad results. Christian standards are found throughout our Bible’s and most often faith, love and mercy can be the remedy.