Reading: End your conversation talking about your common relationship web
STEP THREE: Commitment - Do it!
Philemon 1:23-25 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
6. End your conversation talking about you common relationship web.
Paul begins his letter to Philemon talking about all the people connected to Paul inPhilemon's location. He ends his letter talking about all the people related to Philemon in Paul's area.
Epaphras, the first person mentioned here at the end of Paul's letter, is the one who planted the church in Colossi, and he is probably the one who led Philemon to the Lord. We don't know much about the others listed.
Why does Paul mention these people? What do they have to do with the situation? After all, this is an issue between Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus.
A husband and wife have issues with one another. They decide they do not love each other anymore and want to get a divorce. So now they have to tell their eight-year-old son and their ten-year-old daughter. They sit down with their kids and say something like this:
"Mommy and Daddy do not love each other anymore and have decided that it would be better for everyone if we were to separate and live in different houses. This has nothing to do with you. It is just a problem that daddies and mommies sometimes have. And just because we do not love each other anymore, doesn't mean we don't love you. We love you. We will always love you no matter what.”
You see the problem with this logic, don't you? If I were one of the kids I would, if I had the courage, respond like this:
"Mom and Dad, how can we believe you when you say that you will always love us no matter what? You both once said these same words to each other. But now you tell us that your love is gone. Where did it go? Why did it end? How can a love that is supposed to be forever, no matter what, end? And then why should we believe you when you say your love for us will never change, no matter what?”
The mistake these two parents are making is to think that their problem with each other is just their problem.
A problem between two people is never just between two people.
Let's say there is one member of your work team that is always complaining about the other team members. If someone makes a mistake, she makes sure everyone else knows about it. And when she is talking about others in a negative manner, there is some truth to what she says, and it is hard not to enjoy hearing it. After all, she is talking about someone else. Of course, when you find out she has been talking negatively about you, that is another story.
This goes on for some time, and soon the whole team is upset, not just with this one person, but everyone is sort of down on everyone. One bad apple can spoil the barrel.
We are connected. Any relationship issue you may have with one person is not just with that one person.
The boss has a hard talk with an employee. The employee goes home and talks about it with his or her spouse. If a layoff is in view, it affects the whole family.
We often naively think that relationship issues are limited to the two that are involved in the fight. Thus the saying, "It takes two to have a fight.” And it is true that conflict often erupts between two people - a husband and a wife, a pastor and a member, a boss and an employee, a friend and a friend - but the cause of the conflict and the effect of that conflict is often shared by all kinds of people behind the scenes.
So Paul has a relationship issue with Philemon because Philemon owns the runaway slave Onesimus, and Paul has set him free in the Lord. But the solution to this conflict is not just between them. There is the church that meets in the home of Philemon. There is the group that meets in Rome with Paul. All of this is connected to a worldwide, world-changing movement called Christianity where "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Where there "is neither slave nor free.”
What Philemon does or does not do will have repercussions in the grand enterprise.
So Paul ends his letter to Philemon talking about relationships. If you recall, this is how the letter began as well. This should not come to you as a surprise.
Reading between the lines of Paul's letter, I imagine him saying something like this:
Philemon, I am a prisoner of Christ just as Onesimus is your prisoner. By the way, you are a prisoner as well. And we all are part of a big team of people. Some of that team is with you and the church plant that meets in your home. Some of the team is with me in Rome. And as a team, Philemon, what are we trying to do? Tell people about the grace of the Lord Jesus - a grace that grants us unmerited favor - the kind you need to give to your former slave Onesimus. This may be troubling for you, and you may lose some sleep over this, but, in the end, the Lord Jesus will guide you by His Spirit.
Philemon 1:23-24Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And
so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
When dealing with a difficult issue with your spouse, your friend, your coworker, your neighbor, or your fellow church member, why is the relationship the topic with which you need to start and end?
Romans 12:5 (LB)We belong to each other and each of us belongs to all the others.
1 Corinthians 12:12Just
as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so
it is with Christ.
Why is it easy to forget that, though we are many, we are the one body of Christ?