"4-7Every time your name comes up in my prayers, I say, "Oh, thank you, God!" I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other believers. And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers." Philemon 1:4-7 MSG
Have you ever read the book of Philemon? It's tucked between Titus and Hebrews. It only has one chapter and 25 verses--but what power those verses hold on the idea of Christian forgiveness, acceptance and acts of love!
Paul wrote this epistle to Philemon who was a believer and he also owned a slave, named Onesimus, that apparently had stolen from him and then ran away to Rome. In those days, when you stole something, you were put to death immediately.
But what is so cool is that God took Onesimus' bad choice and used it to have him meet Paul. Listen to Paul's teachings and then be transformed into a Christian. So, when Onesimus was transported back to his far away home, he was brought back as a "brother".
The lesson goes much deeper, but if I give it all away, you won't want to read it for yourself and you should.
But two thoughts just from the verses above. The first one--if there was ever a time that you felt that you had done something so bad, that you were so far gone, that you were so unacceptable to the Father of the Heavens, that there was no need for you to even hope that He would want you to turn to Him--this epistle should give you hope. It should show you that all you have to do is turn around. To asked for forgiveness from your gracious Heavenly Father and in a heart beat, you are there! He has desired you, prayed for you, wept over you and cheered for you since the moment you were created in the darkness of your mother's womb.
The second thought is this--that this epistle has spoken about our responsibly as Christians to received new Christians. To be loving. To be serving in Christ's name at all times. We need to not ever get so haughty that we forget our own path, our own history and look at others with judgmental eyes. With harden hearts. That we don't need to do good things to be forgiven, but we do good things because we are forgiven.
A gentle reminder--If you truly believe that God is the ruler of your life, then that means the ruler of ALL things. That means your life before, now and in the future. Rest in that. And pray to Him to help you know what that all means for you.
"15-16Maybe it's all for the best that you lost him for a while. You're getting him back now for good—and no mere slave this time, but a true Christian brother! That's what he was to me—he'll be even more than that to you." Philemon 1:15-16 MSG