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. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever—Philemon 1:10-16.
Now tell me—is this not true? Relationships sever over issues. When an issue becomes more important than the person, the relationship is going south. Now, I understand some issues are important and we have to stand for the truth. But in Onesimus’ case, Paul chooses to let the value of the person outweigh the value of the offense.
Notice in Philemon 10, “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.” Paul doesn’t say, “I want to talk to you about how much this cost you.” He doesn’t start with the issue. But when is the issue more important than the relationship?
I got some great counsel from a pastor once who said to me, “Don’t make that person’s relationship with God be the test of the relationship with you.” You can stand for the truth and stand by what you believe without forcing that relationship into estrangement over truth. If you can’t pick the fruit, don’t bruise it. Keep loving and give God time to work that out. That’s what Paul is doing here.
Now the problem comes when we come to an issue and it becomes so massive that we shatter the relationship over the disagreement. That’s a problem. Do not do that. Circle back to the person. Find a way to affirm your love for them. Find a way to communicate to them the grace with which you think of them and hold them. Find some way to connect with their heart. Put your hand on them and say, “I care about you. I’m not good with where things are at.”
Now reconciliation does not solve the issue; it absorbs it.
Reconciliation does not remove the difference; it bridges it.
Reconciliation does not eliminate the problem; it elevates the relationship over the problem.
“We’re going to work this out better together than we ever will separately. You matter more to me than any point about which we differ. And I am never going to stop challenging you about this. And I’ll never support what I know will hurt you—ever! But I love you. And I want to be with you through this discovery.”
Elevate the person over the issue.
When have I put the value of the issue over the value of the person? What happened?
Whether or not I can fix it, am I willing to elevate that person over the issue now?
Prayer – Almighty Father, there are many relationships I encounter that are broken and I find myself stepping on eggshells to avoid making matters worse. Thank You that Your Word gives clear direction on how to help reconciliation happen. Give me the courage to step in when I should and the discernment to know when I shouldn’t. Keep me willing always to elevate others! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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