This short epistle (letter) written by Paul to Philemon has one of the most powerful messages on conflict resolution in the bible. This story is not only a powerful demonstration of the gospel to transform lives (“formerly he was useless” but “now he is indeed useful,” v. 11), but also a demonstration of the powerful impact the gospel can have on human relationships as well (receive him “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother,” v. 16).
Apparently during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus, Philemon heard the gospel and was saved. He began serving the cause of Christ in the Colossian community, opening his home for a group of Christians to meet there regularly. At some point, Onesimus, one of Philemon’s slaves, fled to Rome, possibly having stolen money (or property) from Philemon and now a fugitive.
Onesimus somehow came into contact with the apostle Paul and became a Christian. As he grew in Christ, he spent much time and effort helping Paul, who was severely constrained by his imprisonment. Paul thus wrote this letter as an appeal to Philemon to appreciate the transformation that has occurred in Onesimus’ life and to receive him back not merely as a slave but as a “beloved brother” (v. 16).
In verse number twenty of Philemon, the apostle Paul tells Philemon to “refresh his heart.” Here is what I think he meant by that:
- There is always a time of refreshing when we follow God’s instruction for conflict resolution… Deuteronomy 23:15. 16
- There is always a time of refreshing when love is the ruling factor in every situation… See verse 9
- There is always a time of refreshing when we humble ourselves in the process of reconciliation… See verse 10 ( I appeal)
- There is always a time of refreshing when we validate one another… when we recognize the worth of others… See verse 11
- There is always a time of refreshing when there is a sense of mutual respect… See verse 14
- There is always a time of refreshing when we see each other clearly… See verse 16; 2 Cor. 5:16, 17 (no longer a slave but a brother)
- There is always a time of refreshing when we forgive one another for wrong done… See verse 17, 18
After reading the book of Philemon, we come across the names of God and Christ, but not once is the Holy Spirit mentioned. But, I can tell you, by the time you get through these 7 refresh my heart challenge Paul gives to Philemon, you are in for a mighty moving of the Spirit of God. The Spirit will releases his presence in ways you’ve never experienced.
I pray that the Lord will bring refreshing into your conflicts today!
There is nothing too had for him to do. I pray that church boards and committees, best friends and colleagues can find common ground moving forward. Follow the example set forth here by Paul and let the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation burst through your conflict today – in Jesus” Name.