Forgiveness & Justice

May 22, 2022

David Sorn

Does forgiveness ever feel cheap to you? Like it’s missing something? What if forgiveness and justice weren’t supposed to be as separated as we make them out to be?

Forgiveness & Justice

May 22, 2022

David Sorn

Does forgiveness ever feel cheap to you? Like it’s missing something? What if forgiveness and justice weren’t supposed to be as separated as we make them out to be?



(start w/ Renovation Church logo)

Good morning. My name is David Sorn, and I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

Before we get into the conclusion of our Philemon series, many of you saw in our church email this week that we have an important announcement to share this morning, and so I want to jump right into that.

Imagine yourself walking through our lobby, and then out the front doors.

Now take a left, and head north through our parking lot or grass.

And you’ll come to a piece of property, right on the SE corner of Lexington & 125th that used to be a Yellow, Shell Gas Station, right?

Well, upon the arrival of Kwik Trip, the owner of the Shell Gas Station paid to have his building knocked down, and then worked with architects and builders to design a decent-sized Event Center that would squeeze into that corner.

In fact, when we were at the Blaine City Council Meetings in early 2020 getting permits, etc. for this building, that same Event Center for the Corner Lot was being proposed during the same part of that year.

(Royal Lakes Elevations)

In fact, you can see the elevations that they proposed in front of the City.

And then, the city rejected them…because of zoning issues.

After that, we heard literally nothing for quite a long period

We always just assumed the owner was just going to change from being a wedding venue to just going restaurant/coffee shop was in the process of lining up vendors.

Then, 3 months ago, I was in a meeting with our Executive Director of Ministries, Rachel Cheney, and we were discussing how our church is growing astronomically fast, and how we already have Sundays where parking is tight…and we said, “What about that corner lot? A lot that is 2.3 acres…which we’ll put it on the screen for you now

(Corner Lot slide)

And so I called our church’s realtor, and he looked into and then filled me on what had happened:

The owner of the gas station had fallen on difficult times, and the property became a sheriff sale.

It was then snatched up by the contractor that had been planning to build the wedding event center.

And the Contractor was planning on putting this neighboring piece of land back on the market, in just a matter of weeks.

And so, our board met, almost the next day, and we put an offer on that piece of land.

And I’m updating you today to say that our Board has signed a Purchase Agreement with the sellers to buy that corner Lot for 1.3 million dollars!

Okay, let me tell you 2 more things on this

1) Why this matters so much

And 2) Why we all need to be in this together.

First, why this matters.

You probably don’t need to have been coming here for very long to realize that with this fast-growing church that our biggest issue and chokepoint is parking.

We don’t have enough spots.

And based on how people are coming, when we need to expand this place (which is going to happen sooner than probably any of us thought),

…we’re not going to have near enough parking for Phase 2 either with our current land (which is represented by that orangish-red color).

By some estimates, we might be even 100 spots short when we need to expand.

That’s a big deal.

That’s 200 people (a SERVICE) that we would have room for (in here), but we wouldn’t have a parking spot.

But this Corner Lot (in purple here), a lot that we honestly never even dreamed would be available, changes all of that.

Isn’t God good?

We could easily fit an additional 100 parking spots on that land, allowing us to maximize the space we can one day build in here.

And that’s of enormous importance when it comes to Sharing the Gospel!

Let me also say, 30,000 cars a day pass through those stoplights out there.

By 2040, it’s going to be 50,000 cars on this corner.

And not having another building on that property (thus blocking the view), is not the biggest thing in the world, but it is something.

Okay, so that’s why it really matters, but here’s where we all need to be in this together.

The property costs 1.3 million dollars.

Our bank, on relatively short notice, has told us they will give us a loan for a million dollars when we hope to close on this in the summer.

So we need $300,000.

We have a little money in reserves, but honestly, if we ever hope to get a loan for phase 2 and the expansion of this place, we’re going to need to save every penny of it ☺

And so because I know $300,000 in a very short time is not an easy thing, I met with all of our leaders first.

And I told them, “We’re leaders, we need to lead in this,” and I asked them to give first…to inspire us.

And they responded in an astounding way.

Our leaders have already given $192,000 to this.


And so, here’s what we need:

(Special Offering Slide)

We need to raise, the rest of us, as a church, $108,000 to acquire this land for our future, and to make sure we don’t lose this to someone else.

So, 2 weeks from today, on June 5th, we’re going to do a 1-day Special Offering at the end of our service, and we’re going to pray the impossible, and ask God to help us bring together $108,000 in one day.

So, please be praying, seeking God on this?

Can you give? 50? $500? $5,000?

Honestly, it’s going to take even some significant gifts to get to $108,00 in a day.

And then, come on the 5th and let’s watch God move.

If you have any questions, ask me or any other leader after the service.


(Philemon Series Slide)

All right, that’s amazing!

But let’s get into our message now.

We are finishing our short, 3-week series on the letter of Philemon today.

If you’re just joining us for the first time, Philemon is a letter in the Bible written by one of the early leaders of the Christian Church…a man we call the Apostle Paul.

Paul writes this letter, from jail, where he’s been imprisoned for his faith in Jesus.

And he writes to a leader (and host) of a local church, a man named Philemon.

Philemon is a wealthy man who owned slaves…

And one of his slaves, Onesimus, had run away, and met Paul in Rome and becomes a Christian.

Now, before you get really flustered about Philemon owning slaves, let me tell you 2 things.

Firstly, if you weren’t here last week, go back and listen to Pastor Josh’s fantastic message on the Bible’s view on slavery from last week.

And secondly, remember, even 300 years ago (in the 1720’s) very few people questioned if the deplorable practice of slavery was wrong

And listen, 2,000 years ago, hardly anybody even blinked about it.

And yet, here, in this letter, we have this powerful Christian leader Paul, telling Philemon that he should accept his former (and runaway) slave, Onesimus, back as, not a slave, but a Christian brother.


Christianity is often incredibly counter-cultural.

Okay, everybody grab a Bible.

(Page 817 – Philemon 1:17-25)

Paul has asked Philemon to accept Onesimus back as a brother, and now he’s going to flesh out his reasoning for that even further.

Let’s take a look together.

(Philemon 1:17-25) – NIV

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Before we jump back to the beginning of the passage, notice the last few verses.

Sometimes people who’ve never really read the Bible say, “The Bible is just stories and legends.”

Listen, Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox doesn’t read like this.

This is a real letter from history.

Paul’s asking Philemon to prepare him a room…and sending greetings from fellow workers.

If you haven’t learned much before about genres in the Bible, I encourage you to take our Studying God’s Word class this summer…or any class.

This is a Bible-teaching church…we want you to know God’s Word!

(Forgiveness & Justice Title slide)

As we start working through this passage, this is a passage about forgiveness.

And I don’t want you to interact with this text just on an intellectual level.

If we do that, we fail what God wants to do with His living and active word.

So let’s start here: Who is it that has wronged you?

Maybe it was your parents…and how they treated you…what they said to you…or didn’t say to you?

It could be an old boss, coworker

A close friend? Former friend?

Even a spouse, or former spouse.

Who has wronged you? Hurt you?

If you can, think of those people as we proceed in God’s Word.


Let’s look now to verse 18 again, and verse 19

Paul says:

(Philemon 1:18-19)

18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.

In other words, the reason Philemon even knows Jesus in the first place, is because of the preaching of Paul.

But look at this!

Paul says to Philemon, “Okay, listen, Onesimus is guilty. He sinned. He stole from you. He deserves punishment. There are debts that need to be paid.”

“But I’ll pay it.”

“As a friend of Onesimus, I’ll stand by him and pay it. Charge it to my account”

Do you see what’s happening here?

This is amazing. This is the Gospel.

Paul is being like Jesus.

This is exactly what Jesus did for you.

He looked at you in your sin and guilt and said to His Father, “Erase all of that from their account (forgive them), but charge their sin to my account. I’ll pay for it…on the cross”.

It’s amazing, isn’t it?

And there’s something really important here that we cannot miss.

It’s the first of two things that Paul is teaching Philemon about forgiveness in this section:

Paul’s Two Lessons on Forgiveness & Justice:

1. Forgiveness is not absent of justice.

We say often here that the Bible teaches that God is a God of forgiveness AND a God of justice.

And our culture usually has no idea how to put those two concepts together.

Look, Paul doesn’t sound anything like our culture:

He doesn’t sound like a late 20th century postmodern who would say:

“You know what, just forgive Onesimus. Let people live how they want. You do you.”

Nor does Paul sound like the cancel-culture of 2022.

If people were tweeting about Onesimus nowadays, they would say, “Onesimus, he’s dead to me. A pariah. An outcast.”

No, what we find in the letter to Philemon is the Gospel.

It’s not only forgiveness…it’s not only justice.

It’s both.

If we don’t keep them forgiveness & justice together, forgiveness will always feel cheap

If a friend lied about you and got you fired…

Or your spouse walked out on you and the kids…

And you’re just supposed to forgive…

And we never talk about justice…than forgiveness somehow feels cheap.

Romans 12 is super helpful here.

(Romans 12:17-19) – NIV

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

And so what you’re doing when you forgive is you’re saying, “I’ve been holding this against them, thinking about how to get back at them, dreaming about seeing them suffer, but I forgive them”

I let go my right punish them.

You’re not saying what they did was right…or that it doesn’t matter.

In some cases, you might not even be reconciling with the person at all (it might not even be safe to do so!)

But what you are saying is that you forgive AND You’re not the JUDGE

Paul’s Two Lessons on Forgiveness & Justice:

1. Forgiveness is not absent of justice.

And the beauty of that, is, as we read in Romans 12, just because you’re not the judge, doesn’t mean justice doesn’t still exist.

Because remember, there is forgiveness…and there IS justice.

All things (ALL THINGS) will have their justice from God (not us).

As we just read, it’s God’s responsibility to make all things right.

This is the teaching on forgiveness we’re seeing in God’s Word in Philemon.

This is not a cheap, secular version forgiveness where people say, “oh just forgive and forget”

No, this is the Gospel!

Philemon wants Onesimus to pay for what He did!

But Paul says, “No, you forgive, but so justice will be done, I’ll pay!”

And we have all sorts of people that we want to PAY for what they did!

But Jesus says, “No, you forgive, but so justice will be done, I’ll pay”

And listen, for some people, they’re going to refuse Jesus’ offer to pay for their sins, and so in the end, tragically, they will pay for those sins against you…in hell…where justice will be served.

But our hope is, that through our surprising act of forgiveness, that people will seek the only one that can truly pay for their sins.

That our grace leads to them seeking His grace.

Church, and if we truly are comprehending what Jesus did for us, by his strength, we should be doing this…extending forgiveness.

This is the 2nd lesson here

Paul’s Two Lessons on Forgiveness & Justice:

1. Forgiveness is not absent of justice.

2. We deserved justice, but received forgiveness. We must model the same.

This is what is going to give Philemon the power to forgive Onesimus

Paul says, “Remember Philemon, you owe me your very self”

Remember how you got forgiven in the first place.

If Jesus forgave you, a sinner, then I can forgive you, a sinner.

Look back to verse 17 for a moment.

Paul says that Philemon should welcome his former slave Onesimus like he would welcome Paul to his house.

Which…is….crazy, right?

But this is how we act and live as Christians

Paul teaches this principle this way in Romans:

(Romans 15:7) – NIV

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Paul is teaching what we often call “The Platinum Rule”

You remember the Golden Rule?

“Treat others like you want to be treated.”

The Platinum Rule is that we treat others like Christ treated us.

We forgive others…WHY?

Because Christ forgave us.

I heard this from Bryan Loritts, and it really rang true to me:

“Our horizontal relationships with others must tell the truth of our vertical relationship with God” – Bryan Loritts

If God keeps looking at our sin, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, and saying, “Yep, you sinned again. I knew you’d do that. I still sent my son for you. I forgive you. I love you.”

Do you believe that? Can I get an Amen!

If we believe that, then who are we to turn to the one who has wronged us and say, “But you, for what you did to me, there is NO forgiveness”

That… is exactly why Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18

Jesus tells a story of a servant of a king who owed the king 20-years-worth of wages.

When the servant was warned that he and his family would be sold into slavery to repay the debt, the servant begged for forgiveness.

The King cancelled/forgave the debt and let him go.

But not long after, that same servant found a fellow servant who owed him only 100 days worth of wages, and he demanded that his fellow servant repay it immediately!

When the fellow servant couldn’t repay the debt, the first servant had him thrown in jail.

The king gets word of it, brings the 1st servant in, and says:

(Matthew 18:32b-33) – NIV

‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

And the first servant was thrown in jail himself…because he clearly didn’t grasp what the King had done for him.

And it’s a chilling parable.

Do we, as Christians, really, truly, understand what our King, the King of Kings has done for us?

Because if we do, then we will do it for others.

As C.S. Lewis once said:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has excused the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis

And so who is that you need to show the same forgiveness and grace that Jesus showed you?

Who do you need to text today? To call up? To meet with?


In fact, one of the best ways we can witness about Jesus in this current cultural moment is to forgive and share our stories of forgiveness.

We live in a time where people are cast aside, deemed as toxic, and cut off from families.

Our actions of forgiveness, and our own stories of forgiveness, are needed now more than ever.

And we want to do a little of that right now.


In fact, I want to call our Baptismal Team on stage right now

As we are going to celebrate two baptisms this morning.

Baptisms are reminders Jesus Christ has paid our debt, our sin.

And by our faith in Him, we were forgiven, washed clean.

Baptism is a symbol of what Jesus did for you when you, personally, believed in Him (that you were washed clean)

It doesn’t save you.

It’s such an important symbol.

If you are a believer in Jesus, and you haven’t been baptized this is for you.

Every person you see baptized at Renovation Church is baptized by two sponsors (people who’s had a spiritual impact on them)

And so, we’re going to begin!

1st: Lori. Then Paula

2nd: Reggie. Then Lucas

3rd: Janet. Then Chelsea.



(Forgiveness & Justice Title slide)

The people who are getting baptized all morning are telling an important story.

The most important story: The story of forgiveness…

I told you earlier that when Paul had said to Philemon, charge whatever Onesimus did to my account…that he was imitating Jesus Christ who had your sin charged to his account.

But really, it’s even more amazing than that.

Think of it this way:

The Bible says that everything you’ve ever done is seen by God.

And so try to imagine your account, a real record, of all of your sins.

And every day this account grows in its debts, and the list gets longer.

It’s full of lustful looks, selfish decisions, apathy towards God, bitterness towards your family, you name it.

And every day the list just gets longer…and the justice deserved for it, gets more serious.

My list, and your list, are probably a mile long.

But what does Jesus’ list look like?

The Son of God?

The Bible tells us that He was sinless.

Not even once did He do anything wrong.

And so His list has no sins.

Instead, it has all of his good works. His righteousness the Bible calls it.

And that list is incredibly long!

And what the Bible teaches… is that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, he gave you an amazing offer:

He tells you that if would believe He loves you and died for you…and you would say, “I want you to be King of my life…I’ll follow you…here’s my life”

What he will do is this:

He will take that list of your sins, your worst moments, and selfish mistakes…

And he’ll transfer them to his own account

And because those are sins deserving justice…Jesus went to the cross, and DIED on the cross to satisfy the justice needed for your sins!

And He’s not even done.

He’ll then take his list of good deeds and transfer that to your account.

The Bible says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”

So what happens now is that when God sees you at judgment day, what he’ll now see is not your sins, but the righteousness of Christ.

And you’ll receive not eternity in hell for your sin, but eternity in heaven because of His Forgiveness and His Justice.

That’s what your faith in Jesus does.

And if you’ve never believed that before…you’ve never truly grasped the truth of this:

If you’ve never told Him before that you truly believe that He died for you, and that you want to be forgiven and become His follower, then let’s do it right now.

That transfer of accounts happens right when you believe…if you truly do.

And better still, God will come into your life in that moment, begin to change you, and you can have a relationship with Him just like you heard described.

It’s pretty amazing.

So let’s just have everyone bow their head and close their eyes, just for a minute.

If you need to make this decision for the first time today…to receive this transfer of accounts…to receive Jesus into your life as your Savior and Leader…

In just a minute, I’m going to ask you to stand up

No one’s going to be looking at you, that’s why we had everyone close their eyes.

But sometimes in life, we just need that moment…to take a first step.

To say, “God I believe. Take my life”

And if you need to do that today, and I bet you already know it on your heart and you can feel it inside right now…

If you need to tell God for the first time today that you do believe, and you want to follow Him and be forgiven.

Then I invite you to stand where you are right now.

The Bible tells us that in this moment we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths.

Repeat after me

Dear God

I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.

But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place

And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.

And now I commit, to following you, with my life.


As everyone still has their eyes closed, for those of you standing up, you just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe that requires some more information…

So here’s what we’re going to do to get you that…as everyone has their eyes closed, in just a second, I’m going to close the service in prayer, and when I do, people will walk out, but I want the TWO/THREE of you to meet me up here in front.

And I, and our follow-up team, for just a couple of minutes, are going to get you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life (and then you can sneak back in the service).

If you’re part of this church, and your friend or family member is standing up right now, PLEASE come out there with them.

All right, I’m going to pray, and you can go as I pray.

Go ahead. Let’s pray

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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