Many times, the greatest reason for uselessness in church ministry is personal conflict. I don’t like you, you don’t like something I did, so you sit on this side, I sit on that side, and if you come to the church picnic, then I won’t come, and if you have a prayer request, then I won’t pray for it.
But personal issues with another one at church are never just personal. Your personal issues with another Christian here always harms our ministry collectively, in more ways than you might care to acknowledge. Making peace with one another is crucially important. We are prone to forget that a personal issue causes church-wide ministry harm.
Philemon and Onesimus has such an issue between them, and it was soon to tarnish the ministry of Paul and the ministries of the church in Colossae. If you don’t have any issues like this, then thank the Lord and file these instructions away for the day in which you will feel some personal offense from a fellow saint at Church. And if you are currently part of such a personal conflict – whether you are the offended party, the offensive party, or perhaps the stressed-out peacemaker, the letter to Philemon should shine some light on God’s will for you.
There are five parts to Christian Reconciliation that will restore ministry effectiveness to a church.
First, obey not merely out of duty (Philemon 1:8), but out of love (Philemon 1:9). For the sake of the love that you have for all the others at church, make peace with the member in the Church that you have a problem with. Your personal quarrel is harming more than you realise.
Second, submit to a unified ministry mind-set. Paul could have sought his own way in doing ministry, but submitted his plans to those of Philemon so they could have a much longer-lasting impact (Philemon 1:13-15).
Third, view the ‘offender’ spiritually. We are too quick to behold the offense caused by a person to the exclusion of beholding the spiritual status of the other person. Should it not be the other way around? Those at Church with you are fellow saints in God’s household. Be reconciled because you are brothers and sisters in the faith; do not let personal quarrels define your relationship (Philemon 1:15-16).
Fourth, remove all thoughts of revenge – even if you will never put those thoughts into action, they still need to go. Jesus already bore the punishment of that offence that was caused; we ought therefore to extend lavish grace, not revengeful intolerance (Philemon 1:17-19).
Ad lastly, to make sure the reconciliation is complete, add an element of excessiveness to your peace-making quest. Show more grace than you think is fair, demonstrate more love than you feel is necessary; do even more (Philemon 1:20-21).
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.
—Jesus in Matthew 5:9