walk in the word
Always bearing about in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus, so that the life of Jesus might be manifested in my body. – 2 Corinthians 4:10
We have two kinds of people in our lives. We have balcony people and we have basement people. Basement people are those who lurk in the murky waters of your subconscious mind. They have said things to you or about you that have wounded you and injured your capacity to be the person that God wants you to be. Basement people are negative, critical, and harsh. They rain on your parade and ruin your dreams to do something significant for God with your life. Got some basement people in your life?
On the broadcast this week, we’re looking at the little New Testament letter to Philemon. Surprisingly, we don’t learn a whole lot about Philemon in this letter nor do we learn a ton about Onesimus, the focal point of the letter. The person we learn about in the epistle of Philemon is the apostle Paul. He’s what I’d like to call a balcony person.
Balcony people are the fire-up, positive, upbeat people who see the good in everything and always cheer you on to be the person that God wants you to be. Do you know some people like that? You see them coming around the corner and you’re like, “Man, I hope they have some time for me today,” because they build you up and speak faith, confidence, and trust in God into your life. They give you a vision of being more of what God has called you to be.
Now Paul writes this letter to Philemon from an interesting place—prison. And in spite of his hardship, Paul’s focus is to encourage Philemon and also to bring him a challenging word. Being a balcony person, before he gets to that challenge, he starts by seeing the good. We’ll look at just one way Paul models a balcony attitude here; be sure to tune into the broadcast this week for more.
Paul begins his letter of confrontation by focusing on the positive in others. Notice Philemon 5 and 6. “I hear of your love, and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints.” That’s quite a statement. Already in the letter Paul called Philemon a man of love, a man of faith, a beloved friend, (verse 2), and a fellow laborer.
Was Paul just blowing smoke? Was he trying to pull off some Dale Carnegie thing here? No. Philemon had some strengths. So Paul was like, “Before I challenge you about a weak area, let me tell you about some of the great things I see God doing in your life.”
People who understand this need to see the positive are incredibly valuable. Don’t you want them in your church? Too often, all we hear are voices from the basement—
You may say, “I’m not negative, I have the gift of discernment.” Take it from a person who has that gift of discernment; don’t use it in your own strength. The enemy wants to take what God gave to you for good and twist it to make it a fault. Certainly we need people who see error. But God help us if that causes us to be a person who’s always inspecting the faults and failures of others. Yes, we should always call each other to the highest and best, but at the same time we need to recognize that all of us are in process.
I love this quote by Oswald Chambers, “I have never met the man that I can despair of when I rightly discern what lies in me apart from the grace of God.” Never give up on people. Never. Always remember where you’d be apart from the grace of God working in you.
Here’s the principle: See people in terms of how God is making them to be and not for what they are today. Bring this one home. When we live with people, we know their faults. A balcony person doesn’t focus on those things, but holds out for the highest and the best and believes that God is changing that person. We haven’t yet begun to see the full picture of Philippians 1:6, “He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
There’s nothing worse than somebody showing up when you’re halfway through the job and putting an inspection tag on it. Let’s let God do His work in one another and encourage what He’s developing. See people in terms of what God is making them, not for what they are.
Here’s a real and raw application: There are no endearing relationships without forgiveness. If you have a relationship that is five years old or 10 or 15 or 20 years old, it has required several small and at least one large forgiveness. I would far rather be part of the community of people that knows one another’s strengths and weaknesses and chooses to love, forbear, forgive and go forward and grow together in Christ than to keep up with my little pretend world. A balcony person sees the positive and forgives the negative.
You say, “Well, how do I do this? How do I become this balcony person?” Paul told us, “We are troubled on every side, yet not in distress; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;” Here’s his point: “Always bearing about in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus, so that the life of Jesus might be manifested in my body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
It’s the cross of Christ. You can be a balcony person today by remembering the cross of Christ. Just think about it.
brought to you by change partners