Forgiveness and Restoration
In his letter to Philemon, Paul asks him to forgive his [Philemon’s] former servant Onesimus, who stole from him and ran away. But Paul doesn’t just ask Philemon to restore his former servant back to his former place in the household, he asks him to embrace Onesimus as a brother.
I am reminded of Jesus, who before healing the paralytic in Mark 2, forgives his sins. The people get angry at Jesus’ actions, and he asks, “Which is easier?” – to forgive sins or to give physical healing?
This question came to my mind for Philemon: Which is easier? Would it be easier to restore Onesimus to his previous, lowly position or to forgive and lift him up as a brother? Certainly, Philemon has to swallow a lot more pride in order to do what Paul is asking – though if he simply did the first action, he would be doing a good thing. But as a Christ follower, he is not just asked to do a good thing, but to follow Christ’s example.
As believers, we are not just called to forgive and restore as before. We are called to forgive and restore as Christians, as little Christs. How does Christ forgive? He forgive and lifts us up. We do not deserve the position of daughter, son, child that Christ lifts us to; but here we are – brought before the thrown of God and shown as his children. As Christ forgives and lifts us up, so we are to forgive and lift others up. As participants in the Kingdom of God, we forgive and restore as Christ does.