It really gets me upset to see so many churches kick out someone or not welcome them because of a sin. Why? When it comes to sin we often don’t want to talk to someone who has made a “big sin” because of one of two reasons.
A. we don’t want to be seen with them.
B. Somehow we’ll be treated differently because we are friends with them.
The book of Philemon offers a view into this situation that I’ve never noticed before until recently when I was reading the book and it dawned on me that is actually about a sinner coming home!
Philemon is a slave owner and has a slave named Onesimus who decides to steal money from his owner Philemon. After he stole the money he fled to Rome where he encountered the Apostle Paul who was in prison at the time in Rome.
While Onesimus is with Paul he becomes born again and is no longer what he was. The bible tells us that when we receive salvation we’re no longer what we were. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17) Thank God for his amazing grace!!!
When a sinner comes home we should always celebrate it not hate it!
After this happens Paul knows that if Onesimus goes home Philemon will be upset and hurt Onesimus because he stole money and then fled to Rome after he did it! I would be a little upset with him to, wouldn’t you?
To handle this Paul writes a letter to send home with Onesimus and this is a little bit of that letter:
“So if you consider me a partner, welcome his as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.” (Philemon 1:17-18)
Paul has done two things from this text that we can learn from.
The first thing Paul did!
- Welcome sinners as you would welcome a saint
I know this isn’t exactly what Paul said but he did say “Welcome him as you would welcome me” and I think we can say that Paul was articulating that Onesimus should be welcomed just as if he was Paul.
I know there are people in our lives that we don’t want to talk to or welcome in our home better yet our church but believe me, we’ve got to hear them out and give grace to everyone. Why? Because at the table of Christ everyone is welcome. There are no strings attached to the word grace.
2. Advocate for new believers
Paul advocated for this new believer when he said “If he has done you any wrong charge it to me.” I think that is a bold move from Paul as he was saying he isn’t afraid to stand up and say hey, this man is not what he once was and I’ll testify to that on his behalf!
We shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for someone who has recently became a new believer no matter what they did last weekend or twenty years ago. As followers of Jesus we are called to take new believers and shepherd them not mistreat them.
If you’re reading this and you became upset about something or someone who has done you wrong I’m begging you, don’t throw stones at the sinner because if you look deep enough you’re no better than they are.
Be honest with yourself here, have you ever had anyone advocate for you? When someone does that for you doesn’t make you feel loved and cared for? It does me! If you’ll do it for your family why not do it for the sinner.