An Appeal Rather Than a Command

Two boys quarrels

“What’s the magic word?” My teacher was trying to get us to remember to say the word “please” when we were asking for something. So, it turns out the little book published several years ago was right, “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten!”

So, what is the power of request over demand? To get to the answer we will have to explore the very purpose of our creation. At our parish in Cumming, GA we do a weekly Bible study on Wednesday mornings, and our current series is on the wonderful book of Genesis. We are enjoying learning about The Beginning. And, it turns out, the purpose of all this is relationships: our relationship with one another and our relationship with God!

Look at our Lesson today from Philemon 1:1-25:

PAUL, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker, and Apphia our sister and Archippos our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may promote the knowledge of all the good that is ours in Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you – I, Paul, an ambassador and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus – I appeal to you for my child, Onesimos, whose father I have become in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 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; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand, I will repay it – to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be granted to you. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchos, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

St. Paul has a bit of a challenge here. You see Onesimos is a runaway slave and Philemon was his master. Philemon is a believer and now Onesimos is a believer since his connection with St. Paul. And now Paul is sending Onesimos back to Philemon for reconciliation and peace!

And Paul clearly says he could demand Philemon do the right thing, but he’d rather request. And the primary reason for that is two-fold.

First, requesting reveals an Invitation to Love in action and not just in speech! Philemon loves Paul as his spiritual father and Paul loves Philemon as his spiritual son. Now that Onesimos is also a spiritual son of St. Paul, this mutual love now binds all these men in a communion that always supersedes any temporary social convention. Love and communion are more important than even legal realities!

Next, requesting reveals an invitation to Grace over “justice.” Mercy is better than vengeance or any of our sense of ego. Grace sets me free to “let it go” and not demand my “rights” or what I think I’m “due.” Requesting invites me to be gracious rather than grudgingly going along because I “have to.”

Today, are you willing to do the hard work of communion rather than reducing all your relationships to “rules and regulations?” To be sure, we need structure, but structure must always serve love and not stifle it. Learning to request instead of demand may be more risky but it opens the door to being Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Did you miss last night’s discussion about Orthodox and Single on Faith Encouraged LIVE? Maybe you did hear it but your friend didn’t. All you have to do is go to the Archives Page and AncientFaith.com and share this with someone today.

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