Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gentle Love

I love the little book of Philemon. Such a deep letter from Paul's heart to his fellow brother. As I read these epistle letters to his brothers I like to imagine myself there. Historically there. Without our written word. Relying on the next penned paper to arrive from the leader of the church. Hoping he was still alive. Knowing he would encourage us on in our faith.

Philemon found himself being lovingly admonished to accept back his slave Onesimus, after he ran away. In God's sovereignty, Paul "met" up with this man after he had run from his master. And God used Paul to lead this boy-man to a saving knowledge of Christ. Now Paul has the task of telling his brother, Philemon, that he has found Onesimus and directed him to go back home. As I read this story, I was struck by Paul's loving, but direct command appeal.

Verses 8-10 relay this appeal: "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul - an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus - that I appeal to you for my son, Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains."

This struck a chord in my heart because I find myself in a similar place. Those of us that have almost grown children, can find ourselves very often confronting irresponsibility or begging for wisdom on how to handle situations when someone has sinned against us. That's a hard one. When we are sinned against and have every right to come and speak truth, we so often forget the loving  part.

So I find myself particularly intrigued by the way Paul lovingly entreats Philemon. He has lovingly entreated me today too.

Speaking the truth in love is so key to a healthy relationship. We as parents are so used to demanding obedience, for we have every right to. I mean, we are the authority, aren't we? How often have I wanted to say, "You will not question me! You will do what I say, because I am the parent." Yet, God has taught me so much lately in denying my own "rights" and appeal to their own conscience. Obviously, I am talking about grown children. Little ones need much more direction and training and cannot make these decisions. But as our children grow into their own people, and learn to fly (especially getting ready to take off) we must not demand. We must learn to love and exhort.

This takes so much time and energy. Most importantly it takes the knowledge and nohow by being with Jesus.

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