I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
DEVOTION – DECEMBER 29, 2019
For me, the end of the year is a time to reflect, take stock of the year past, and plan for the year ahead. If I don’t regularly take time to evaluate my heart, I can unknowingly drift into sluggish and sinful patterns.
To fight against this deadly drifting, it’s wise to prayerfully consider our ways. While there’s nothing magical about doing this at the turn of the year, a completed calendar does provide a natural opportunity to intentionally remember, reflect, and resolve with hopes of developing deeper devotion to Christ in the year ahead.
Last year, my mentor graciously shared his end of the year reflection time with me:
- Take time to remember. (List five things you’re most thankful for.)
- Think ahead. (List five things you’re hoping for God to do in the year ahead.)
- Reflect on your heart. (Ask yourself heart-probing questions.)
- Resolve to go deeper. (How can I grow in godliness?)
The first reflection was easy for me, but when I reached the next portion of this reflection, things started to get real. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year? Once I allowed him to open my eyes to see where my heart strayed from his ways, he started to unearth the calloused soil of my heart.
I immediately knew that my broken relationship with my dad needed mending. It had been three-plus years since our last conversation, and it was time for me to make things right. In order for this reconciliation to begin, I knew that I couldn’t do this alone. A face-to-face visit back home was required; I had to swallow my pride and understand this reconciliation has to be motivated by all God has done for us in Christ.
In our fallen world, the natural drift in relationships is always toward brokenness: hurt, misunderstanding, disappointment, fracture, separation, alienation, and isolation. But through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God and given the resources necessary–the perspective and the power–to be reconciled to one another.
The short, biblical book of Philemon–one chapter, only 25 verses–is all about reconciliation. Here’s the backstory in brief: Onesimus (the name means “useful”) was a slave in the household of a Christ-follower named Philemon who lived in Colossae. Onesimus apparently had stolen something and fled. Onesimus eventually met the Apostle Paul, who was in prison in Rome, and became a believer, too. Now Paul, who also knew Philemon, sent Onesimus back to Philemon with a letter urging reconciliation.
What are the takeaways? There are so many practical lessons for us in this letter.
- First, reconciliation may need the help of a third-party (v. 10). The Apostle Paul leveraged his influence with both Philemon and Onesimus to help repair the relationship. A wise counselor, a mutually respected friend, or a wise pastor can sometimes fill this same role. If your marriage or other significant relationship is fracturing or has already broken apart, reach out to a third party who may be able to help you get beyond the impasse and onto a road that leads to restoration.
- Second, reconciliation requires going back (v. 12-14). It’s not insignificant that the Apostle Paul sent Onesimus back to face Philemon. Onesimus needed to say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Paul’s hope was that Philemon, recognizing the transformation that had occurred in Onesimus, would show grace and forgiveness (v. 15-16). The nature of reconciliation typically requires us to go back before we can go forward.
- Third, reconciliation is always costly. Did you notice that the Apostle Paul says to Philemon: “if he [Onesimus] has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account…I will repay it” (v. 18-19, ESV). Someone always pays when true reconciliation occurs. Our reconciliation to God required that Jesus pay our sin debt on the cross. Similarly, in human relationships, someone always has to absorb the cost of making things right. Genuine repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation are never cheap.
- Fourth, our efforts to be reconciled with others should be motivated by all that God has done for us in Christ. Though unworthy because of our sinfulness, God has shown us grace and mercy by reconciling us to himself in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Romans 5:10-11). So, because we have been reconciled to God, we should seek reconciliation with others–especially other believers. If repentance is required, we should admit our wrongdoing, say we’re sorry, ask for forgiveness, and make restitution. If forgiveness is required, we should be grace-filled and merciful, “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV; Matthew 6:14-15). Loved people, love others. Forgiven people, forgive others. Reconciled people, seek reconciliation with others.
The bottom line is that the gospel of Jesus Christ should transform all of our relationships.
So, is there someone with whom you need to reconcile today? What steps do you need to take to help make that a reality?
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Crossings KIDS Creative Pastor
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