Philemon 8-9. 8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.
Philemon 13-14. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
Why do you obey God? Have you ever thought about it? What is your motivation behind your Christianity? Is it law, or is it love?
The Philemon and Onesimus saga (see yesterday’s blog) offers an opportunity to see if the gospel actually works in practice. How will Paul handle this situation? How will he appeal to Philemon? What will he say to him? What will he do to make things better?
The easiest way for Paul to handle this whole mess would be to use his apostolic authority to boss everyone around and simply tell them what to do – I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required. He could tell Onesimus to go home, quit whining, and be a good slave. Or he could tell Philemon, “Hey, I’m keeping your slave because he’s useful to me, plus you owe me, plus I’m an apostle and you’re not.”
But Paul doesn’t use heavy-handed “law” to get his way. Instead he loves. And he gives an opportunity to love.
The love of Paul.
Paul is demonstrating to Philemon what love looks like from those in authority – setting aside your power and privilege. Not using the authority you have to forcefully get what you want – I preferred to do nothing without your consent.
Yes, Paul could have said, “Stop it Philemon! Stop owning slaves. I command you to let Onesimus stay with me.” But he won’t use his power in that way. Rather, Paul loves Philemon. He treats him as an equal. As a brother in Christ. He’s modeling for Philemon what love looks like in the body of Christ. What the crucified life looks like – setting aside your preferences for the sake of reconciling all things to Jesus.
An opportunity for Philemon to love.
At the same time Paul gives Philemon an opportunity to love – yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you. He appeals to the indwelling life of Christ in Philemon. He lovingly asks Philemon to do the right thing instead of telling Philemon to do the right thing. And he has to trust that Christ is at work in Philemon and that he WILL do the right thing.
Paul trusts in this truth of our union with Christ: no person in Christ will ever be frustrated when given an opportunity to love their brother or sister in Christ. No Christian would ever say no to a chance to draw upon God’s divine love, to receive it, and then share it with another. No believer would ever deny themselves to be more fully human. More kind. More generous. More compassionate. More forgiving. More reconciling. No one who is indwelt by Christ would ever reject the chance to live the crucified life of self-denial, and self-sacrifice. No one in Christ would forego the mind of Christ, the mind of humility and grace, if appealed to in love.
The indwelling life of Christ is what Paul is appealing to. Not a law, but a love – that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
“To live is Christ” has made God’s love the controlling force in our lives. Now we can appeal to one another from his love, not just his authority. From Christ, not just compulsion.
How do you appeal to others? With law or with love?
You in Christ
How does being in Christ allow us to appeal to others with love?
Christ in you
Where might you be able to offer someone an opportunity to love today?
Playlist: For Love’s Sake.
Click Here to this playlist on Spotify!
To see today’s post from the TLIC Family blog –> Click Here