“Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee…” (Philemon 9)
In this little book, only one chapter long, Paul is asking his friend, Philemon, to forgive their mutual acquaintance, Onesimus. This man had wronged Philemon, but in the providential workings of God, had met Paul, and consequently, the Lord. In appealing to Philemon for forgiveness on behalf of Onesimus, the apostle pleads on the basis of love. Have you ever wondered if it was Paul’s love, or Philemon’s, or even Onesimus’ that was being cited? It doesn’t actually all that much, does it? The point is, real forgiveness does not occur without love for someone.
There are times when our love for an individual gives us the necessary impetus to forgive him or her for a slight—or even a great—offense. And there are other times when not to forgive would hurt a third party, and that person may be dear enough to us that it tips the scale in favor of the other. But, as you well know, there are occasions, when there is no earthly reason for us to extend forgiveness. And in such cases, we must ask ourselves if there is not a heavenly one.
You and I have a dearer Friend than even Onesimus’ friend, Paul, who has said to God the Father, “If he hath wronged thee [and we have], or oweth thee ought [and we do], put that on my account…I will repay it.” And He did. As the song says, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay.” And He did it for love’s sake.
Now, for the sake of this One, Jesus Christ, for whose sake God forgave the awful debt of sin we owed, can you and I not find reason enough to forgive those who have “trespassed against us?” Can we not do it for love’s sake? Not ours…or theirs…but His?