Reading: Communicate that you both need God’s grace
STEP ONE: Relationship - Build it.
Philemon 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Communicate that you both need God's grace.
Paul offers grace and peace to Philemon from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Why does he do this?
Today, we greet people with, "How are you?” We don't mean anything by it. It is just a greeting. So, maybe offering grace to someone back then was just a greeting.
Or maybe Paul was indeed offering the grace and peace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to Philemon.
My dad, like many dads, was always right. At least, that is what I thought that he thought. And, if he was always right, then I was always wrong. I did not like being wrong. Not only did I not like being wrong (even when I was wrong), but I knew that sometimes I was not wrong. I was right sometimes. In fact, I was more often right than wrong. (How important is being right to you?)
At least, that is how I felt.
Well, who doesn't feel this way?
In a church where I was the pastor, a member was not happy with me. When I visited him, he said, among other nasty things, that my sermons weren't Biblical.
I asked for a few examples so I could better understand what he was talking about, and he told me he couldn't be expected to remember examples.
So I then asked him to consider last Sunday's sermon, did he remember that?
He did remember it, and he thought it wasn't very Biblical.
I asked what part of my explanation of the Prodigal Son (that was my sermon on Luke 15) was un-Biblical.
He said that the whole thing was un-Biblical.
I then responded with, "If the whole thing was un-Biblical, then it shouldn't be hard to give me an example of one thing that I said that was un-Biblical.”
He just repeated that the whole thing was un-Biblical.
I then asked how he could expect to convince me that he was right if he couldn't give me one example.
His response, "You are arrogant.” (Who have you called or at least thought of as arrogant?)
I had been patient up to this point, but now, having been unfairly insulted, I unsheathed my logic sword. Looking back, this was probably not the right thing to do to fix our broken relationship, but in the heat of the battle, it did produce a moment of insightful clarity (of course, I say this as only my humble opinion). I looked him in the eye and asked, "Can I ask you a question? Who is more arrogant? Is it the one being called arrogant or the one doing the calling?”
He said nothing. So I continued.
"You call me arrogant, and maybe that is so. But aren't you just as arrogant or perhaps even more so than me as you stand on some self-righteous mountain and look down on me. You appoint yourself the judge and jury in my case, you deliver your sentence on me without a trial of any sort, and then you refuse to tell me any of the grounds upon which you judge me.”
He said nothing. He learned nothing. I learned nothing. And a friendship of five years came to an end.
But I was right, right? I mean, he was arrogant to call me arrogant? Right? That is my insight.
But, if being right is what is important in your relationship with someone, then you will always have a fight on your hands. What are you adamantly right about these days?
I don't care how wrong a person may be. No one, let me repeat that, no one wants anyone telling them that they are wrong.
I am not saying it is impossible for a person to admit they are wrong. It is more than possible. It is necessary if one wants success in any relationship. What I am saying is that it is very difficult to admit one is wrong when others are trying to force it on you.
So why do we do it? Why do we have this need to correct, rebuke, and criticize our spouses, family members, co-workers, pastors, and fellow church members?
There may be many reasons, but let me tell you the biggest. People have corrected, rebuked, and criticized us!
It starts with our parents. We grow up and go to school, and teachers share the load. Add to this a few coaches and finish it off with a few bosses.
Correction, rebuke, and criticism are all around us, and for the most part, it is productive - it brings the best out of us.
But in these cases, generally, it is expected or a part of an unspoken deal we have with teachers and mentors. When a kid signs up for a baseball team, he is in effect saying to the coach, "I understand that when I sign up for this team, it not only means that I am giving consent, but I am also asking for your correction, rebuke, and criticism. I understand that the motivation for all of this will be for my enrichment.”
So we are ready for it. We know that criticism is coming and is given because someone cares for us and wants the best for us.
But when, for example, someone criticizes you for something you have done or not done and that same person has never encouraged you or said anything positive to you in your past, it comes off hurtful.
People do it to you; so you do it to others.
Paul, right away in his opening salutation to Philemon, affirms the need for grace and peace.
Grace assumes that both you and I are not perfect. Grace assumes that neither one of us is likely to be 100% right. Which means, in all likelihood, both of us could be wrong.
What does grace do for two people about to deal with a difficult relationship issue? It gives each of them the freedom to be wrong. This might be worth writing down.
What does the freedom to be wrong do for a person? It frees them to truly look at the issue at hand with an open and humble mind.
"I don't have to be right. If I am wrong, I am loved by God no less. I am still a child of the King. In fact, Jesus died on the cross to pay for all my wrongness. I don't have to hide it or defend it.”
So maybe Paul's words, "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” were more than a greeting. Maybe these words were a necessary ingredient in solving a relationship issue.
So why not try this greeting out (Again, your relationships will not improve just because you read this book. Do something.) for a week or two. Offer these words to your spouse first thing in the morning. Then to your kids at breakfast. How about to the people at work or school? At first, it may seem awkward. But soon people will know you for this greeting.
Of course, if this is going to be your greeting you will have to start living it.
By giving yourself and the people around you the grace to be wrong.
Ephesians 2:8-10For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. In an argument, both parties tend to think they are right and, therefore, often do not listen to the other side. How is this like boasting?
1.Why do you think most people have a great need to be right?
2.Why would the need to be right be a burden?
3.Why would the ability to face the possibility of being wrong be freeing?
4.Into what troubling relationship do you need to interject a little grace?
5.Before two Christians talk about some difficult or sensitive issue where there may be some hurt feelings, why would acknowledging God's grace be a good way to start a conversation?