Who are you having problems with? Most of us immediately have a name and a face that comes to mind. Most pastors immediately know of someone in the congregation who is causing fits one way or another.
That’s the bad news, but there is also good news.
The good news is God has provided a way and examples of how we deal with those people we have problems with. Look at how Jesus related to twelve difficult people. Almost all of us are difficult from time to time.
Paul’s letter to Philemon is one of the greatest pictures ever of how to confront problems. Confrontations should always be with problems not with people. If you confront the problem, you will have made a friend and encouraged a brother. If you do it the conventional way (confronting people), the outcome is iffy.
Paul confronted the problem. The problem had to do with Onesimus, a slave in the household of Philemon who had run away, probably stolen, and generally left Philemon in a lurch.
Paul confronted the problem when Onesimus showed up at Paul’s imprisonment. Onesimus came to know the Lord and demonstrated genuine repentance. Paul sent a letter to Philemon asking him to forgive and restore Onesimus.
In order for that to take place, three tough decisions had to be made.
First, Paul had to decide whether he would risk his reputation with the Christian church by sticking his neck out. The easier path would have been to let sleeping dogs lie. Paul chose the hard road.
Second, Onesimus had to repent, return, and apologize. Neither of these three decisions is easy.
Finally, Philemon had to forgive and accept Onesimus back not as a slave but “as a brother.” Do you think that is easy?
If people are going to “get along,” someone has to get involved. For restoration to occur, someone has to be big enough to say “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” And finally, someone has to be big enough to say, “I forgive you and I take you back as a brother.”
God shows that we can heal broken relationships. This can happen in marriage when two people are big enough to deal with the tough issues. It can happen in churches–it should happen in churches much more often than it does.
Who are you having problems with?
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