But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Philemon 14 (EHV).
Are you willing to give, to forgive; are you willing to share? My two-year-old granddaughter is living with us at the moment and she’s a lesson in sharing. She hasn’t had much exposure to other little kids, so seeing her share – or not – up close and personal with my other two-year-old granddaughter is eye-opening. Picture it: two-year-old’s, “mine”, “NO”, alligator tears, hurt feelings, grandpa hugs, giving the toy (or whatever it is) to the other child, more tears, and so on.
Two-year-old children lack the intellectual ability to thoughtfully consider their actions. They also lack the ability to know what consent is, or why it’s important when wanting to get or use something that someone else has. And they don’t know how to express themselves unselfishly in all cases, or how to show willingness to do something that violates their sense of needing, wanting, or personal space. Fair enough.
So what’s our excuse? My way or the highway. Unwillingness to let go of a grudge. “Just go ahead and do it.” It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission: what’s our excuse for doing things without another’s consent so that their favor will be voluntary and not compelled? How do we justify not forgiving?
Paul was ASKING Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother, not as property. Paul didn’t demand it; didn’t say “he’s coming back” without reason or explanation. He didn’t compel Philemon to accept something that was unacceptable or forced on him. No, Paul asked his friend to accept that his former slave was now a strong believer in Jesus. As we’ve discussed before, that would have been a highly unusual thing. It would be for us in our so-called modern world as well.
Don’t believe me? Try forgiving your ex. Most breakups and divorces involve animosity. Imagine if you were trying to split up your house and your soon-to-be ex got sick and needed your help. Would you invite them back and share your space even though they so seriously wronged you? Would you pray for their forgiveness, pray that they would know Jesus’ grace and peace? Some friends recently shared that they knew the BTK killer and several of his victims’ families. They shared how the families forgive this man who ruthlessly murdered their loved ones.
Imagine sharing that. Imagine consenting to invite someone into Jesus Christ’s forgiveness so that they, too, might live in His grace forever even as they have done the most heinous things we can conceive. Two-year-old’s can’t (and won’t) share like that, but God’s forgiveness should always be the standard by which we evaluate what we and they share. What’s our excuse today?
For further reading: 2 Corinthians 9:7, 1 Peter 5:2, Philemon 15
Lord Jesus, help me to put aside my pettiness and share Your grace with others, today and always.