Would You Rather: The Philemon Edition


One of my boys is obsessed with “Would You Rather…” questions. I have to admit – once I tried a few, I was kinda hooked, too. (Actually, I’m really hooked. I told my husband that we should have a Would You Rather date where we go out for dinner and discuss Would You Rather questions the whole time.)

Here’s one for you: Would you rather…

  • Have to apologize for something you really don’t want to apologize for
  • Have to forgive something you really don’t want to forgive

In my experience both are equally hard, especially if they’re each tied to something unfair, painful or personal. But when it comes down to it, I think overcoming pride (saying sorry) is slightly easier than overcoming pain (giving forgiveness).

The book of Philemon is only one chapter (25 verses) long. It’s a short, personal letter from Paul to his friend Philemon on the subject of forgiveness. Paul pleads with Philemon to forgive their mutual acquaintance [Onesimus] and treat him with brotherly love instead of serving up retribution.

The heart of Paul’s reasoning – and the part that really got me – was this:

So if you consider me your partner, give him the same welcome you would give me if I were coming. If he has harmed you in any way or stolen anything from you, charge me for it. I, Paul, write this in my own handwriting: ‘I will repay it.’ And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!

Philemon 1:17-19 NLT 1998

So, Paul wants Philemon to give Onesimus the same courtesy that Philemon would give Paul. Paul also offers to take care of any of the outstanding hurt that Onesimus may have caused. Finally, as if the first two weren’t enough, Paul points out that Philemon has Paul to thank for bringing him to Christ – having a home for eternity must buy him some kind of understanding of grace, right?!

Does any of Paul’s logic give you a sense of déjà vu?

  • Jesus asks us to treat others as he treats us. (“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NIV)
  • Jesus took care of our outstanding debt. (“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 NIV)
  • We owe Jesus everything – how could we withhold anything from one another? (“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV)

No matter how much pain I’m feeling by an offense, Jesus can heal it. No matter how much someone took from me, Jesus can replace it. No matter what I do wrong on this earth, Jesus can forgive it.

I think – ultimately – the better “Would You Rather” question is this: Would you rather…

  • Be unforgiven by Jesus
  • Forgive one another

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for loving me beyond my capacity to love and forgiving me beyond my capacity to forgive. Please continue to stretch and grow my heart so that I can love and forgive just like you do – without hurt, resentment, bitterness or grudge. Heal my wounds and put grace in its place. Amen.

Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash

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