Mercy and grace are sometimes tough things to give.  But they are always wonderful to receive.  The idea of extending forgiveness when we have been wronged is an issue sometimes.  But we want to tell you that if you want relationships to thrive or be restored, we must be people of mercy and grace.

In the one-chapter book of Philemon, which is a letter from Paul, who is an old man under house arrest in Rome.  Philemon was a wealthy man who seemingly came to Christ through Paul’s ministry.  He returned to his home and started a church there.  This letter is to be read to Philemon, his family and the entire church, as Paul asks Philemon to walk in the faith and to restore fellowship with a person who did not deserve it.

Who was this person?  His name was Onesimus, a slave who had stolen money from Philemon and run to Rome.  In prison, Paul later met Onesimus and led him to Christ.  And Paul says to Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to show him mercy, even though he did not deserve it.  Paul then asks Philemon, in addition to extending mercy, to extend grace — to do even more than Paul is asking.

In life, we will meet people who deserve no mercy or grace from us.  We live in a culture that says, if someone does you wrong, strike back or cut them off or seek revenge.  That’s not God’s plan.  Believers need to be people of mercy and grace, even when it is the toughest thing for us to do.  The culture is ugly and often vicious, my friends, and the church should behave differently.

Look what Paul says next: He tells Philemon to take all of Onesimus’ accounts and to place them on Paul himself.  Doesn’t this sound like the Lord Jesus?  Christ takes on all the believer’s sins so that He can completely pay for them with His shed blood.  Christ is our example and what Paul asks Philemon to do, Christ has already done for us.  The example has already been lived out by Jesus.

Are you a person of mercy and grace?  Do people see you as a Christian of wisdom and godly character?  Our testimony matters.  How we treat people during conflict is important because it defines how we, as followers of Christ, will be seen by others.  If we hold grudges and smolder over wrongs against us, we lose our power to speak out for Christ.

If you can grab hold of the concepts given within this small but significant book of Philemon, it can have a massive impact on your life.  Mercy.  Grace.  Forgiveness.  Restoration.  This is what is needed in our churches and in our families.  God’s Word always challenges us and I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this column has fought against being a person of mercy and grace.  But God calls us to live for Him, to live beyond ourselves so that our testimonies are powerful and meaningful to all who know us.  Grudges destroy, but mercy and grace bring healing and unification.

Let’s be people who bear the spirit of mercy and grace so that we can an impact more lives and see fractured relationship healed.  I’ll close this column with the words of Paul’s closing in Philemon: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen.”