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Philemon – The Ministry of Reconciliation
ピレモンへの手紙 – 和解

26 August, 2018

Many of you would be familiar with the story at the beginning of Les Misérables, a novel written by Victor Hugo in 1862:

A peasant named Jean Valjean, is released from prison after 19 years. He was in prison because he had stolen bread to feed his starving sister and her family. Now a free man, he is now turned away by innkeepers because his yellow passport marks him as a former convict. He sleeps on the street, angry and bitter. But a kind bishop gives him shelter. At night, however, Valjean runs off with the bishop’s silverware. When the police capture Valjean, the bishop pretends that he had given the silverware to Valjean and then gives him two more silver candlesticks as well, as though he had forgotten to take them. The police accept this explanation and leave. The bishop tells Valjean that his life has been spared for God, and that he should use money from the silver candlesticks to make an honest man of himself.

This is a wonderful story of grace. The guilty are not only pardoned but blessed, and given a new start in life. I don’t know where Hugo got his story idea from but I suspect he took it straight from the real life drama recorded in Paul’s last book in the Bible, his letter to Philemon. (We’re continue our overview of the books of the Bible.)

Here’s the story:

A rich Christian man named Philemon had a slave named Onesimus, who stole from him and ran away. The legal penalty for this was death. Yet Onesimus ended up meeting the apostle Paul and becoming a Christian. Now, Paul wants to send the stealing slave Onesimus back to his owner Philemon (whom Paul knows well), and this letter is a plea for Philemon to take Onesimus back.

If there is a key verse for this story, it’s not found in this letter, it’s found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, where Paul says:

From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:16-18

ですから、世間の評判や、外見の良し悪しで、人を評価するのはやめなさい。以前、私は、その誤った考え方で、キリストのことを自分と同じ人間とみなしていました。しかし今では、その考えは一変しました。 だれでもクリスチャンになると、内側が全く新しくされます。もはや今までと同じ人間ではありません。新しい人生が始まったのです。この新しい出来事はすべて神から出ています。神様は、キリスト・イエスの働きによって、私たちをご自分のもとに連れ戻してくださいました。そして、この恵みによる神との和解を、すべての人に勧める特権をも、私たちに与えてくださったのです。
コリント人への手紙Ⅱ 5:16-18

Well, that’s the teaching, and it’s good and it’s right. And right teaching is easy to apply in other people’s lives. But right teaching is not always easy to apply in our own lives, especially when we’re the ones who have been wronged or hurt.

Paul’s approach in applying the ministry of reconciliation in this letter is brilliant. He doesn’t just rush in and say ‘Hey Philemon! This is what God says, so you’ve got to do it’. He uses tact, skill and emotion, as well as scriptural truth to carry his message.

Specifically, Paul uses this three step approach to encourage Philemon to embrace the ministry of reconciliation between believers:

  1. He encourages Philemon. It might sound at first like he’s just buttering him up, or using flattery to get ‘in’ with Philemon. But it’s not that. Paul is genuine in his praise and encouragement of Philemon, who is a faithful Christian worker and runs a dynamic house church. He and Paul have a history together, and Paul loves and admires him.

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus…Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
Philemon 4,5,7

愛するピレモンよ。あなたのことを、私はいつも神に感謝しています。 それは、主イエス・キリストに対するあなたの信仰と、すべてのクリスチャンに対するあなたの愛をいつも耳にしているからです。 愛する友よ。こう言う私も、あなたの愛によってどれだけ慰められ、励まされたか知れません。ほんとうに、あなたの親切は多くの信徒たちを元気づけました。

  1. He makes a rational appeal. He urges Philemon to consider the situation in the light of the gospel and in the light of true Christian reconciliation.

I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
Philemon 13-16

内心私は、福音のために捕らわれの身となっている間、彼をそばにおいて、あなたの代わりに世話をしてもらいたいと思っていました。 しかし、あなたの同意なしに、そんなことはしたくなかったのです。あなたがしてくれる親切はむりじいされてではなく、心から喜んでするものでなければなりませんから。オネシモが、しばらくのあいだ逃亡していたのは、彼が永久にあなたのそばにいる者となるためだったのでしょう。 それも奴隷としてではなく、はるかにまさった者、つまり、愛する兄弟(信仰を同じくする者)としてです。そのことでは、あなたの感慨もひとしおでしょう。単なる奴隷と主人の関係を超えて、キリストを信じる兄弟同士になったのですから。

  1. Paul uses emotion. If he were writing for selfish purposes, it might appear manipulative. But Paul is writing for the sake of the gospel and for brothery reconciliation, and how can that not involve emotion?

If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
Philemon 18-21

もし彼が、何か損害をかけたり、物を盗み出していたりしたら、その請求は私にしてください。 私が支払います。その保証として、自筆でこの箇所をしたためています。私の助けがあって今のようなあなたになれたという、あなたの私に対する借りについては何も言いません。 愛する友よ。どうか、愛にあふれたすばらしい態度で私の弱っている心を喜ばせ、主を賛美させてください。この手紙は、あなたが私の期待以上のことをしてくれると確信して書きました。

We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. I believe our maturity as Christians is measured by our faithfulness to this ministry of reconciliation. It’s measured in two ways:

  1. The first way is in our outreach to non-believers. We are called to reconcile our non-believing friends and acquaintances to God.

In the same passage in 2 Corinthians 5 I referred to earlier, Paul writes:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

コリント人への手紙Ⅱ 5:20

This is the message and the desire we carry – to multiply our faith, to see those we know become right with God.

  1. The second way our maturity is measured is in our ability to forgive and reconcile with one another.

Rick Warren presents a very practical 7 point approach to promoting reconciliation between believers. And Paul did each of these in his letter to Philemon.

  1. Talk to God before talking to the person. God typically changes hearts more quickly and more easily than we do. The book of Proverbs also gives lots of advice on the wisdom of being slow to speak, especially when angry. So talk to God first.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative in reconciliation. This is not to suggest hurrying the process, but to be willing to initiate reconciliation whether you are the offender or the offended.
  3. Sympathise with their feelings. You’ve got two ears and one mouth, so use your ears twice as much as your mouth. You must understand how the other person is feeling before you can attempt to solve a disagreement.
    相手の感情に共感する。 私たちは皆、2つの耳と1つの口があるので、口の2倍の耳を使ってください。つまり聞くことに倍時間を費やしてくださいということです。不一致を解決しようとする前に、相手がどのように感じているのかをしっかり聞いて、理解しておく必要があります。
  4. Confess your part of the conflict. Sometimes it can be hard to be sure exactly what your part might be. This can lead to withheld confessions or it can lead to erroneous confessions. So you might want to ask a third party to help you assess things.
  5. Attack the problem, not the person. You cannot fix a problem if you’re set on fixing the blame. You have to choose one or the other. How you say things is just as important (if not more important) as what you say.
  6. Cooperate as much as possible. Paul says,

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18

ローマ人への手紙 12:18

(This last one is perhaps the most important, certainly with regards to our study today.)

  1. Emphasise reconciliation, not resolution. Reconciliation focuses on the relationship, resolution focuses on the problem. We’re simply not going to agree about everything, and that’s okay. What counts here is that when we disagree, we do it without being disagreeable. We should still strive for agreement – that’s important – but reconciliation comes before resolution.

Let’s conclude with a time of prayer and meditation:

Think of those you know who don’t know God. Who can you reconcile to God?
Who do you know, who do you work with, who do you live with – that you can reconcile to God?
あなたは、そのような人を誰か知っていますか? あなたは誰と一緒に仕事をしていますか? あなたは誰と一緒に住んでいますか?あなたは神と和解することができますか?

Is there anyone in the faith, a brother or sister, that you need to be reconciled with? If so, talk to God about it now, then afterwards go and make your peace.

Let’s meditate on this scripture one more time:

From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-20

ですから、世間の評判や、外見の良し悪しで、人を評価するのはやめなさい。以前、私は、その誤った考え方で、キリストのことを自分と同じ人間とみなしていました。しかし今では、その考えは一変しました。だれでもクリスチャンになると、内側が全く新しくされます。もはや今までと同じ人間ではありません。新しい人生が始まったのです。 この新しい出来事はすべて神から出ています。神様は、キリスト・イエスの働きによって、私たちをご自分のもとに連れ戻してくださいました。そして、この恵みによる神との和解を、すべての人に勧める特権をも、私たちに与えてくださったのです。 つまり、キリストによって、この世をご自分と和解させ、その罪を数え立てずに、かえって帳消しにしてくださったのです。これが、人々に伝えるようにと私たちにゆだねられた、すばらしい知らせです。こういうわけで、私たちはキリストの大使です。神様が、私たちの口を通して語りかけてくださるのです。キリストが懇願しておられるかのように、キリストに代わって、あなたがたにお願いします。どうか、差し出された愛を拒まず、神様と和解してください。
コリント人への手紙Ⅱ 5:16-20