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Eight ways to be a Peacemaker: Philemon

An appeal from Prison for Reconciliation

Let me begin by telling you this. Reconciliation is hard, but it is not impossible. We need mediators, peacemakers, we need people who will be Christ between us. One of the most significant contributions you can make through your life is by being a mediator, by bringing people together, instead of being a divider, instead of segregating people, instead of polarizing people. We live in a time where there is heightened polarization and segregation. Majorities, minorities, the suspecting, the suspected. We live at a time where right left and center, we are inundated with news and views of who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s bigger, who’s smaller, who’s stronger, who’s weaker. We are divided on all sorts of grounds. Today more than any day before, the church is called, believers are called to be peacemakers, to be mediators, to be Christ between us.

Christ was a mediator. He enabled us to be at peace with God and to be at peace with man.

1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV) says, ‘For there is one God, an there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’.

One mediator. He’s the one who did it, he made it happen. Scripture after Scripture says, he made peace with God, he brought peace to man, he got us back to the Father. Christ is a mediator who brings man and man together. He enables us to have peace with man too.

Ephesians 2:14 (ESV) says this, ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Like, he comes as a wall between us and his flesh, that is his humanity, his incarnation, as he comes to us in humility, he comes between us and he mends the relationship between man and God, mends the relationship between people. I like what the ‘Message’ translation says in Ephesians 2:14 (MESSAGE), ‘He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance.

So, let me tell you a story found in a single chapter book of the Bible. It’s called Philemon. Here, Paul is in prison yet he is appealing for the freedom and the forgiveness of another slave, a guy called Onesimus. So, Paul’s in prison and he is appealing for the freedom and the forgiveness of someone else who’s outside who’s free but is a slave. Let’s look at eight ways to be an affective peacemaker. And if you and I, we will all, as the church, as the members of Christ, as the body of Christ, be committed to not only being peaceful to people but bringing peace among people, God’s going to use us.

Philemon 1:1 (ESV), ‘Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother…’. “No, Paul was a prisoner of Rome.” No, no, he doesn’t say “I was a prisoner of Rome”, he didn’t say “they threw me in jail”, he doesn’t say “I was in isolation”, he doesn’t say “life was tough, life was unfair”, he’s in isolation, he’s surrounded by guards, he is in jail, but Paul says “I’m a prisoner for Christ”. You redefine your walls.

He says, ‘I am writing to Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:’ I love that. He’s dedicating his letter, he’s writing his letter, addressing his letter, to Philemon our fellow worker, a man who’s been serving along with us, to Apphia his sister and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and then he says to the church that’s in your house ‘…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ So, Philemon was in what my home church calls, he was a home shepherd.

For many years, the church has been meeting in buildings and has been getting bigger and bigger so that people can’t actually talk to each other, they’ve been sitting in rows so that they don’t have to actually look at each other, we have a start and a finish so they don’t even have to meet each other. That has become the church. And God closed the church and He sent us back home. And now, we are like the first century church, we’re in homes. And Philemon was a home shepherd. He hosted a church in his home. That’s what the church was like in those days. Every day of the week, church met in homes, from home to home, house to house, Acts 20:20, they met in homes. What a beautiful picture that is, and maybe today that’s what God is bringing us back to. We need to seriously reconsider how God wants us to redefine our walls. Remove walls that are there and redefine walls that aren’t there.

  1. Build a prayer deposit for people in your life. He says in Philemon 1:4-5 (ESV), ‘I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints’ and every time he thinks of people who are following hard after God, who are seeking God, who are serving God, it excites the heart of Paul. See, ‘toward the Lord Jesus and toward the saints’, cause that’s always a mark of maturity: Personal Devotion, Public Ministry.

You can never care to reconcile people you haven’t been praying for. You can never care to be in the lives of people you haven’t been praying for. When we pray for people, God gives a holy compassion and burden. We don’t think about how I am going to be the answer or what will I say or how do I have the answers, I only begin to understand that God is there, God exists, God has answers, God has peace, God has everything it takes for those two people to be put back together, and we begin to see hope in a place of hopelessness.

  1. Pray for people to know their share value in Christ. He says in Philemon 1:6 (ESV), ‘and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.’ He says, ‘I’m going to pray that when you share your faith, your sharing would be effective. When you share your faith, faith in the hope of God, faith in the reconciliation of God, faith in the peace of God, faith in the healing of God. When you bring people together and you present your faith and you pray for them and you get involved. Here’s what happens, He says, ‘the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.’ That’s what I mean. When we pray for people, we want them to know what they are capable of in Christ. There is something that makes you capable of much more than you think you can or cannot do, because you have that share in Christ, because you are in Christ. If Christ, being godly, can die for the ungodly and demonstrate his love that while we are still sinners die for us, how much more will he live through us to intercede for those who have petty problems with each other. So, you need to understand your share value in Christ, the wealth and the resources and the ammunition that you have in Christ. So, we pray for people to have that.

  2. Acknowledge the good work invested before. Acknowledge the good work that is invested before by the people whom you’re trying to reconcile. If you go to people approaching them with a view that they are useless, they’ve always been that way, and we start pointing fingers and using language like “you’ve always been this, you’ve never done anything right, you’ve always been mean”, when you go in with that, you never get anywhere. A good mediator begins with saying “you have it in you to forgive, you have it in you to let go, I have seen you do this before, my brother, my sister, there is something you can do here as well just like that.” Philemon 1:7 (ESV), ‘For I have derived much joy…’ who’s talking to whom? Paul is talking to Philemon. He’s writing a letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, and he’s trying to make peace with Philemon and Onesimus, and that’s the story here. He says, ‘For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother’ I have personally been a beneficiary of your love, of your grace. I have seen what you’re capable of. I know you have it in you to forgive. So, he says, ‘For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.’ Me, I have derived, I have experienced the goodness in you and I know many others have experienced goodness in you. No, it’s not me, it’s not just that you have never shown it, you have shown it and people have seen it. Come on, Philemon. Philemon, you’re doing so much brother. You’re such a blessing. You have done so much in the past, for me, for so many others. So, before I say anything else, I want you to know that counts. Philemon, I’ve seen it. It matters. I know it’s in you. I’ve seen Christ in you. I’ve seen the hope and the joy and the mercy of Christ in you. You are not incapable of this forgiveness, Philemon. Acknowledge the good work invested before. Acknowledge that there has been Christlike character before, there has been a show and demonstration of the power of God before, of prayerfulness before.

  3. Put your ego aside (and who you think you are) and appeal in love. If you’re going to be a peacemaker, you need to put your ego aside. If you come into a fight, if you come into a conflict and then you set yourself up as a new authority, and it becomes more about you and you can’t take certain words or certain punch/ swings in your direction, then you need to rethink the way you mediate. Put your ego aside and appeal in love. Put your ego aside or who you think you are and appeal in love. Philemon 1:8-9 (ESV), ‘Accordingly…’ he says “that’s it, having said that, having told you what you’re capable of, how much I appreciate you and how much you’ve done, having said that,” he says, ‘Accordingly, though 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…’ See, what Paul is saying is…Paul has already invested so much in Philemon, Philemon owes him big time. Paul is a senior man, he’s an older man. He says here, ‘…I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus.’ So, he’s an old man, he’s a senior, he’s an apostle, he’s anointed by God, he’s the reason why Philemon is in Christ, he has invested in Philemon, he recognizes and encourages Philemon, he has every right to say, “Philemon, just do as you’re told”, but he says, “No, I don’t do that. I put my ego aside and I appeal to you, Philemon, I appeal to you out of love.”

  4. Place a high value on people. After putting your ego aside and appealing in love, place a high value on people. “As I value you, Philemon…” Paul is telling him, “…I also value Onesimus.” Onesimus used to be the slave of Philemon. Onesimus used to work for Philemon. I don’t know what went wrong and I don’t know what fell apart, but for whatever reason, Onesimus now has become a believer, is in the Lord and has been serving with Paul. And now Paul wants to reconcile Philemon and Onesimus. And he wants them to not just work together but recognize that they are family in Christ, that they are brothers. So, he says, place a high value on people. “I value you, Philemon, but I also value Onesimus. Look at Philemon 1:10-12 (ESV), ‘I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly, he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.’ See, if we don’t value people, we won’t fight for them. If we don’t value people, we won’t fight for the relationship. If you’re able to just walk away from a relationship, if you’re able to just let it lie, let it slide, if you’re able to be comfortable with an hour, two hours, a day, two days, a year, two years, of broken fellowship, then you are not putting a high premium on relationships. God puts a high premium on relationships. We need to place a high value on people. If you’re going to fight for people…if you’re going to fight, not with people, for people, if you’re going to fight to keep people together, you have to yourself place people at a high value. “I value you, Philemon, but that’s not because you’re rich and you have a room for me and you have a car to take me around every time I come visit you, but I value Onesimus as well, and I value that both of you are okay with each other. I want you to be okay with each other.”

  5. Presume the goodness of people but not their consent. Philemon 1:13 (ESV), ‘I would have been glad to keep him with me…’ “Onesimus, great guy. Oh, I would’ve loved to have him with me. Oh, he is such a help, he is an initiator, he’s proactive, he is so servant hearted, I would’ve loved to keep him with me. But he is your slave, he belongs to you, he’s rightfully yours”. ‘…in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,’. “I would’ve loved to have kept him but I prefer to do nothing without your consent.”Philemon 1:14 (ESV), ‘but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.’ See, if I kept him you’d be very happy and I know that you’d be good enough to let me keep him, even though he is your servant, he is your slave, but I’m not going to make you, compel you to be good to me. If you want him to be with me, you can send him. But first, you guys need to be okay. I would prefer this relationship be intact than me just benefit from Onesimus. ‘I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

  6. Reposition the relationship as family in Christ. Philemon 1:15 (ESV), ‘For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while (Paul is telling Philemon about Onesimus), that you might have him back forever,’. Maybe he parted from you for a while that God wants you back together forever. Philemon 1:16 (ESV), ‘no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother’. So, when we reconcile people, we don’t just bring it back to what it was, we hope for greater things, we bring it back to what it can be in Christ, what Jesus is capable of doing with that relationship. ‘no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother – especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.’ So, we reposition the relationships as family, as beloved, in Christ. Why should I reconcile people? Because they are in Christ, because in Christ they can have so much more potential to that relationship. A relationship can fall apart in the flesh, but in the Spirit, in God’s strength, in Christ, it can be brought back together and it could have much more blessing than it even did while in the flesh. If you don’t believe that, if you and I don’t trust God for greater things, we will not fight for people, we will not be mediators and peacemakers. Blessed are the peacemakers.

  7. Appeal with confidence and trust God for more than you asked. Always believe that you’re going to end up with greater blessing than you started. Always believe that God is able to do much more than just fix the problem, He’s able to fix the problem and bring blessing out of the mess. Philemon 1:17-19 (ESV), ‘So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.’ “Change your view of him. You’re not receiving Onesimus anymore, you’re receiving Paul, Paul the apostle.” ‘If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.’ “Put it on my account. I’ll pay it off. I’ll take care of it.” ‘I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it – to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.’ So, Paul is saying, “If we were to stop and talk about how much you owe me, you should be doing for me, of your own free will, because you owe me, there would be so much more I could command you I could demand you and I could tell you to just do as you’re told, but I’m not going to do that, I’m going to appeal to you and I’m going to say I’ll cover his cost. If he has frauded you, if he has incurred loss to you, I will cover it. But take him back. Take him back.” See, reconciliation is not just peace-talking, it’s not just words, we have to be willing to invest everything we have to build relationships, because we realize that God puts a high premium on people, on relationships. Philemon 1:20 (ESV), ‘Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord (there’s nothing wrong with wanting it). Refresh my heart in Christ.’ Then he says beautiful words here, in verse 21, ‘Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

In ending, Philemon 1:22 (ESV), ‘At the same time, prepare a guest room for me,’ he’s telling Philemon to get that room ready, his favorite room that faces the ocean. He says, ‘…prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.’ Verse 23-25, ‘Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greeting to you,’. Hey, always connect people. ‘…and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demus, and Luke, my fellow workers.’ He’s connecting people. You can see the value of relationships here. He’s not just fixing broken relationships, he’s making new relationships and he’s connecting people. Connect people. Be a connector. Be a peacemaker. Be a mediator.

My dear friend, my brother and sister, all around you, you hear divisiveness and segregation and mistrust and misunderstanding. The voice of the church is a voice of peace and reconciliation – peace with God, peace with man. Jesus came to bring peace. Jesus came to make peace. In fact, he has made peace and now he wants us, the body of Christ, to deliver the peace treaty. If Christ is the greatest mediator, do you know the share value you have and the peace-making power you have in Christ? I want you to think about this.

You don’t think you can make a difference, you can be a difference to people in your life, you don’t think that you have the right words, you don’t think that you know what to do? I am asking you, do you know the share value you have in Christ? Do you know the peace-making power that you have in Christ? As you explore who you are in Christ and what you are in Christ, you begin to understand that if you are in Christ, then everything Christ is capable of doing he makes you capable of doing. He says, “greater things you will do, if you believe”. Do you believe?

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