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. – Philemon 1:8-9a
Paul wrote a personal letter to his dear friend and brother-in-Messiah, Philemon, who happened to be the owner of a slave named Onesimus, a friend of Paul also. In the opening of the letter, Paul appealed to the sensibility of Phil asking him to receive his servant back as a brother rather than as a piece of property. The apostle noted that he had the spiritual authority to demand this action of receiving the once slave as a friend and brother but chose to make an appeal to his fellow believer in the love of Yeshua HaMashiach.
There is an adage that many have heard and has been championed in film, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Yeshua stated that those who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much. Paul was such a person. The L-rd made Paul his emissary to the non-Jews of the day. With that position came certain duties, obligations, protocols, and authority, such as establishing churches, appointing local leaders, and imparting spiritual gifts to individuals chosen by the Ruach HaKodesh (Spirit).
Paul could have very easily demanded as an apostle that Phil take Onesimus in as a fellow believer, but Paul didn’t want to misuse his authority and power. Instead, he decided to make an appeal in love to demonstrate the power of love and to show the world that indeed we are identified as children of G-d when we show love for one another. There is no greater depiction of our adoption into the family of Yahweh than to show others, particularly those of the faith, the same love the Father shows us.
Paul made it abundantly clear in several letters that we all have a position within the body of Messiah, and with that position, there comes a certain level of authority. Some have more than others, but nonetheless, we each have a responsibility to carry out our duties assigned to our position in the body of Messiah, which requires authority to make those duties happen. Yes, we could demand that others do things either in support of what we do or to ensure the right thing is done. However, it is always best to make an appeal in love, which brings to mind another adage, “It’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Do you (and I) really know how to make an appeal in love to a fellow disciple of Messiah? Or, are we more inclined to exercise our authority and control over others as the Pharisees and Sadducees did in Messiah’s day? They were all to eager to make their presence known and demand the best seats and to be heard and seen. They failed in the practice of appealing through love. Messiah was right that they were of their father the devil and not Yahweh! Don’t let your example be stained by coercion of a situation, unless it is absolutely called for and no alternative is to be found. Yes, there are times that authority must be wrought, but love should always be our first choice. We are to temper justice with mercy at all times.
Father, thank you for your love for me. I know according to your word that I was made to please you. All things were created by you, through you, and for you. I am excited to be part of that wondrous creation, whose privilege and duty it is to worship you and exalt you above all else. For there is no other god but Yahweh! The L-rd my G-d, the L-rd is one! Help me to always approach others in love and appeal to their sensibilities rather than coming down like a judge’s gavel and rendering a verdict. You have placed upon me certain duties, responsibilities, and authority. Help me to conduct myself within the scope and purpose of the office to which you’ve called me. I want to learn to control myself in self-discipline as did Paul when he addressed Phil regarding Onesimus. Ruach HaKodesh, please teach me that level of understanding, patience, and love. I honor G-d the Father, G-d the Son, and G-d the Holy Spirit. May only your will be done in the name of my L-rd and Savior, Yeshua HaMashiach. Amen.