“Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” Philemon 1:8-9
I’ve heard it said that the most efficient way to run an organization is through a chain of command and by giving orders. That’s why the military runs that way.
I suppose in a perfect world this would work very efficiently but we don’t live in a perfect world and we’ve all heard the stories of the military efficiency. Certain aspects of the organization appear to run like a clock work mechanism and other parts of it seem to be running amuck.
I believe the reason for this is that people weren’t created to merely follow rules or commands. People were created to know, and understand, and to make decisions for themselves. If you take that away the people begin to become out of balance and individually stop functioning as God intended.
And here’s the thing, the bigger the decision the more important it is that we individually understand, and know, and determine what we will do.
The apostle Paul is preparing to ask Philemon to do something big. Philemon doesn’t have to do it. The law doesn’t require him to. In fact, he’d been entirely within his legal rights to do exactly the opposite of what Paul wants him to do. Many people, at that time, in Philemon’s position, would consider the course of action Paul is going to request to be in error. You’d merely be upsetting the social order and giving tacit permission for others to wrong and take advantage of you.
Paul doesn’t command what he wants. He wants to. Our focus text as good as says that giving a command is very much what Paul wants to do but he doesn’t. Instead he clearly states what he wants, and why he wants it, and then he makes an appeal.
If you think about it, this is how family and friends, especially friends, treat each other. And this is how God treats us. He wants us as part of his family. He wants us to be friends.
Some of you are thinking, “Friends? Really?
Yes, really. In John 15:15 Jesus tells his disciples that he “no longer calls them servants but friends.”
Jesus wants us for friends and you can only get that kind of relationship if you treat people like friends and that means don’t give orders. Rather you communicate, convince (if you can), and appeal.
I think most churches, and marriages, would function better if we followed this model.
Grace and peace be with you…