How to Reconcile with Another Christian

How to Reconcile with Another Christian

How many of our disagreements, misunderstandings, feelings of bitterness, and lack of forgiveness in the body of Christ would disappear if we looked at our conflict in light of eternity?

How do we reconcile with fellow Christians? In my thirteen years of pastoral ministry, I have found that much of my calling deals with helping those who have been injured by other people—especially other people in the church.

We live in a messy world filled with messy relationships. The church exists in that world, so it isn’t immune to messy relationships. The letter of Philemon is example A. The circumstances of this letter are just messy. Paul is a prisoner, writing a letter to Philemon—a slave master—about Philemon’s thieving and runaway slave, Onesimus. And they are all Christians. Talk about a mess. The church is messy, and it doesn’t get much messier than a slave and his owner in the same church. I tend to think this letter of Philemon resides in our Bibles because it offers one of the most complex, messy relationships the church could ever experience and provides a beautiful picture of how to seek reconciliation in the midst of such relationships. The Apostle Paul approaches reconciliation between these two brothers masterfully.

Paul practices patience. He takes time before asking anything of Philemon. He lays a foundation. He is 145 words into this 335-word letter before he even mentions Onesimus. And Onesimus is the sole reason he is writing this letter. Notice the foundation he lays: he informs Philemon of his own love for Christ (vv. 1, 4, 6, 9) and then his love for Philemon (vv. 4, 5, 7). Let others know your love for Christ and your love for them first. The appeal or correction that flows from that stream will be less obstructed.

Paul doesn’t demand and doesn’t attempt to control Philemon. He appeals to him (vv. 8–10). You can never force someone to reconcile. You can’t demand it. Paul says in verse 8, “I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.” He knows that love must be manifest for true reconciliation, but love can’t be compelled. It can’t be forced. He does the same thing in Philippians 4 when he addresses Euodia and Syntyche, two women in conflict in the church at Philippi. He says, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (v. 2). He appeals to them individually.

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