Hard conversations_Paul and Philemon

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This final message in the Hard Conversation series focuses on Paul's hard conversation with his friend Philemon, whom he challenges to "pay it forward" by showing grace and Christian brotherhood to his run-away slave, Onessimus. Paul prepares Philemon for this challenge and carefully makes the case for one of the most radical acts of forgiveness in the Bible.

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  • “When we avoid difficult conversations we trade short-term discomfort for long- term dysfunction.”
    Peter Bromberg
  • When our minds are not set on something big, they will be consumed by small things.

    That is what happens here. These junior prophets could be sitting at Elisha’s feet and asking, “What’s next?” “What can we do to help?” “What is the LORD telling you?” Instead, they are investigating the very disappearance that God prophetically revealed to them in advance. Searching hills and valleys. Small things.

    I can honestly say that I believe that this is the greatest thing facing the church of Jesus Christ in America. And let me get real specific… it is the greatest thing facing our church. Will we ask God for Big Things… Big Asks…, or will we allow our minds and hearts to be consumed by small things? As you can see, we’ve been remodeling. This is not my first time around this block. Some of you like the new colors. Others might have made a different choice. Some of you love the new lighting capabilities on the stage… others are drawn to the fact that the light enclosures don’t match. That wasn’t our plan, but we’re dealing with that. But can I go on record as saying that it’s a small thing. So many of the things that most arouse our passions and fervor in church are small things. Evangelism – leading people to Jesus… That’s big. Disciplemaking – helping people to become like Jesus. That is really big. Defending the truths of God’s word and instilling a proper understanding of the Bible into the hearts of men, women, boys and girls… that is big. Defending the fatherless and the widow… BIG. Feeding the hungry and visiting the ill and imprisoned… BIG. Serving at risk children… BIG. These are the things that Jesus told us were big. There is no lack of big things. But my fear is that big things receive less attention because we have been consumed by small things.

  • Paying it Forward
  • First Point

    Let people see that you value them before you challenge them.
  • 1Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


    Insights: Philemon and Apphia are likely husband and wife and Archippus is their son. Their seems to be an especially close kinship here in that of all of Paul’s letters, this one has the most personal greeting. Paul usually identifies himself as an apostle
  • Some unique characteristics of the Book of Philemon

    9 of Paul’s epistles are addressed to churches. 4 are addressed to individuals.
    Philemon is addressed both to an individual and a church.
  • In the majority of Paul’s epistles, he identifies himself as an apostle in the greeting.
    Philemon is one of the few in which Paul does not do so.
  • Most of the Pauline epistles are filled with doctrine and exhortations to Christian living.
    Philemon is a deeply personal epistle lacking these features.
  • 4I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints,
  • 6and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.
  • 7For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
  • Second Point:

    Balance Boldness and Tact in Hard Conversations.
  • 8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—
  • 10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.
  • 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,
  • 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
  • 15For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
  • It is estimated that there were 60 million slaves in the Empire. That translates to two thirds of the total population of the Empire. Before the first century, the slave population ran as high as 90% of the Empire. This high ratio produced tremendous fear of a possible slave revolt. In order to manage this fear, there were almost no limits in the penalties for runaway slaves. When captured, a runaway slave might be crucified, or branded with a red-hot iron on the forehead with the letter “F” for fugitive.
  • Another key difference between American slavery and the slavery in the Roman Empire is that slavery was not primarily based upon race. Slaves were prisoners of war, people captured and sold by pirates. Many slaves were the children of poor Roman families who sold some of their own children into slavery. As a result, slaves were not easily recognizable as such. In a PBS special on Roman slavery during this period, the Roman Senate seriously considered making slaves wear clothing that would make them identifiable at a glance. The idea was rejected because the Senate realized that this would help the slaves recognize their numerical strength and increase the likelihood of revolt.
  • Another key difference between American and Roman slavery was that the slave could earn money and even purchase their own freedom. Many slaves were highly educated and skilled. For example, accountants and physicians were often slaves. Those who were educated and skilled often gained their freedom in as few as 7 years. A slave owner could free his slave during his lifetime or in his will. The freed slave could become a Roman citizen at this time, but could not hold political office. The son of a freed slave could do so. A notable example of a high-status slave was Tiro, the secretary of Cicero. Tiro was freed before his master's death, and was successful enough to retire on his own country estate, where he died at the age of 99.
  • Doug Stone, author of 2011 article “Difficult Conversations: Learning How to Address What Matters Most.”
    “Difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values.”

  • 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,
  • 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
  • 15For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
  • Third Point

    Help people see an opportunity to be their “best me” in Hard Conversations.
  • 17So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
  • 19I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
  • 21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
  • 23Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
  • Hard conversations_Paul and Philemon

    1. 1. “When we avoid difficult conversations we trade short-term discomfort for long- term dysfunction.”Peter Bromberg
    2. 2. Big and Small When our minds are not set on something big, they will be consumed by small things.
    3. 3. Paul and Philemon Philemon 1
    4. 4. First Point Let people see that you value them before you challenge them.
    5. 5. Philemon 1Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    6. 6. Some unique characteristics of the Book of Philemon •9 of Paul’s epistles are addressed to churches. 4 are addressed to individuals. •Philemon is addressed both to an individual and a church.
    7. 7. Some unique characteristics of the Book of Philemon •In the majority of Paul’s epistles, he identifies himself as an apostle in the greeting. •Philemon is one of the few in which Paul does not do so.
    8. 8. Some unique characteristics of the Book of Philemon •Most of the Pauline epistles are filled with doctrine and exhortations to Christian living. •Philemon is a deeply personal epistle lacking these features.
    9. 9. Philemon 4I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints,
    10. 10. Philemon 6and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. κοινωνία (koinōnēa) Fellowship
    11. 11. Philemon 7For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
    12. 12. Second Point Compelling other’s grace makes hard conversations harder.
    13. 13. Philemon 8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—
    14. 14. Philemon 10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.
    15. 15. Philemon 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,
    16. 16. Philemon 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
    17. 17. 15For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
    18. 18. Slavery in the 1st Century Roman Empire •It is estimated that there were 60 million slaves in the Empire.
    19. 19. Slavery in the 1st Century Roman Empire •It is estimated that there were 60 million slaves in the Empire. •Slavery was not based upon race.
    20. 20. Slavery in the 1st Century Roman Empire •It is estimated that there were 60 million slaves in the Empire. •Slavery was not based upon race. •Slaves could earn money and pay for their freedom.
    21. 21. “Difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values.” Douglas Stone Harvard Law School
    22. 22. Paul’s assessment of Onessimus •“my child” (v. 10) •“useful” (v. 11) •“my very heart” (v. 12) • a “keeper” (v. 13) • a beloved brother (v. 16)
    23. 23. Philemon 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,
    24. 24. Philemon 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
    25. 25. 15For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
    26. 26. Third Point Help people see an opportunity to be their “best me” in Hard Conversations.
    27. 27. Philemon 17So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
    28. 28. Philemon 19I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
    29. 29. Philemon 21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
    30. 30. Philemon’s “best self”. •He is Paul’s partner. (Receive Onessimus as you would receive me.) – v. 17 •He is a refresher of others. (Refresh my heart in Christ) v. 18 •He is reliably grace-filled. (Confident of this…) verses 21-22.
    31. 31. Philemon 23Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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