In several of his letters to the churches, Paul talks about the ministry of reconciliation. “In Christ,” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV, “God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
In other words, the world has estranged itself from the Creator through sin, but in Christ God is drawing it back to himself.
But sometimes, it is easier for us to picture God reconciling the world than it is to picture ourselves reconciling with our brothers and sisters.
Reconciliation is difficult. It takes courage. It takes humility. It takes Jesus.
This week we will hear from the Book of Philemon—the shortest of Paul’s letters, but arguably the most profound. Written primarily to Paul’s friend Philemon, the letter advocates for the runaway slave Onesimus, who sought Paul out in prison and became a Christian in the process. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with the letter, hoping that the story would end with reconciliation between the two.
But Paul doesn’t just tell Philemon to “let bygones be bygones.” Instead, he offers to pay
the slave’s debts. He tells Philemon, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it.” (Philemon 18–19 ESV)
NT Wright says that with The Book of Philemon, Paul embodies his ministry of reconciliation. “Paul’s apostolic ministry reaches one of its high points,” he writes, “as he stands with arms outstretched, embracing Philemon with one and Onesimus with the other. That is what the ministry of reconciliation looks like.”