Words of Worth

Mend Fences

September 30, 2017

mend (one’s) fences
phrase of mend
repair a damaged relationship

A few weeks ago I received a letter in the mail from my home association saying:
“The enclosed fence in your back yard will be removed due to the age and structural integrity of the fence.”

Apparently it was not much of a personal letter because all of the residents in my development received the same notice. And last week, thus began the tearing down and putting up of new fences. Every morning, for the last two weeks, the buzz of the saw, the pounding of posts, and the back breaking work, has become a spectator sport in my neighborhood from 7:30 am to 6 pm.

Interestingly, this major project dovetailed with the Bible Study I began to teach, on the book of Philemon, which contains a handwritten letter from the apostle Paul to his friend, Philemon. Paul’s personal letter reminded me of the “not so personal” letter I received from my home association. And the content of Paul’s letter reminded me of the fence mending going on in my backyard. Both my new fence and the bible study on Philemon, have at least one thing in common: MENDING FENCES.

The work going on in my back yard is the physical mending of fences whose integrity has been compromised. The appeal in Paul’s letter to Philemon, is for the spiritual mending of a relationship between Philemon and his runaway slave, Onesimus, which had lost its integrity and was in need of repair. In this short book of the Bible, Paul makes an appeal, on behalf of Onesimus (whose name means useful), to Philemon.

       “I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was                                                        useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.”                                        (Philemon 10)

Onesimus had run away and traveled to Rome where he met Paul, and while there, Onesimus surrendered his life to Christ. Under Roman law, Philemon could have executed his slave for fleeing, but Paul pleaded with him to overlook Onesimus’ faults and errors, and to forgive Onesimus and accept him back, not only as a slave, but also as a brother in Christ.

For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord
(Philemon 15-16).

Paul did not diminish Onesimus’ sin, but his message to Philemon was a simple one: based on the work of love and forgiveness that had been wrought in Philemon’s heart by God, show the same to the escaped and now-believing slave Onesimus.

None of us has to travel far in our life’s journey to realize the difficulty of offering forgiveness when we have been wronged. Yet, as believers, we have to recognize that our ability and willingness to offer forgiveness is the result of Christ’s saving work on the cross.

May we be a “Philemon” today to someone, and mend fences with someone who is need of our forgiveness. In so doing, we will declare the integrity of our relationship with Christ, and we will allow Him to foster renewed life in our hearts and relationships!

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