On Forgiving

If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.  I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it – to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.  ~Philemon 18-19


            The book of Philemon includes this promise and admonition from Paul to Philemon regarding Onesimus.  Onesimus was the runaway slave who had somehow wronged Philemon so that he owed Philemon a debt.  Paul advocated throughout this letter for Philemon to receive Onesimus as a newly saved Christian brother and to forgive him for past wrongs.  As a part of this, Paul promised to pay Onesimus’ debt.  He then reminded Philemon that he owed Paul a greater debt!  Because Paul had forgiven Philemon the greater debt, Philemon was to forgive Onesimus whatever debt he owed.

            Though this letter is a very personal one directed at one specific man about one other man, it illustrates for us one of the commandments for Christians – we are to forgive one another as we have been forgiven.

            At the cross, Jesus paid the debt of our sin.  He paid for my sins past, present, and future.  He paid for the sins of all his people in the same way.  When I am wronged by a Christian, that debt has already been paid on the cross!  Jesus says more truly than Paul, “Put it on my tab, Oh, and remember that you owe me your very life.” 

            How can we forgive those who wrong us?  How can we let a wrong pass?  By knowing that the wrong doesn’t get a pass.  If the one who wronged us is a Christian, that person’s wrong has been punished at the cross.  If a person wrongs us and is not a Christian, that wrong will one day be brought into judgment by Christ.  On both counts, the debt is to Jesus who assures that justice is done.  On this basis, we are able to forgive even when someone does not admit wrong.

            One final note, if there is no repentance, we may never be reconciled to the other person because the relationship is broken.  We are still able to forgive, however, and are not to hold a grudge.  Grudges are to be given to the Lord who paid the price.  We are to forgive freely and, if repentance follows, seek reconciliation.  Remember the price that was paid for you, trust the Lord, and forgive that person who came to your mind as you were reading this.

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