Friday, September 30, 2011

An appeal for gracious communication

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Philemon 21

Paul could have chosen to agressively confront Philemon. But Paul was not that kind of encourager. He knew that a moment of divine providence needed to be followed up with gracious confidence. The story of the short book of Philemon is just that: grace following in the heels of God's sovereign work.

Philemon was a church leader familiar to Paul. He was part of the upper eschelon of Roman culture. He had a large household that included slaves. One of his highly trusted stewards, Onesimus, embezzled from him and ran to Rome. And there, thinking he might hide in the big city, by God's providence came into contact with Paul. And Paul led him to faith in Christ. Paul instructed the new convert to do the right thing... the unthinkable thing: return to Philemon with this letter in hand. Paul trusted Onesimus to obey God. And in the letter, Paul trusted Philemon to obey God as well.

Grace followed in the redeeming of the soul of a runaway criminal slave. Grace followed in Paul's careful admonition to Philemon to receive back a repentant brother in Christ. Grace followed in Paul's confidence that both of them would follow Jesus and do the right thing.

I find it instructive that Paul wrote so confidently and graciously about all this. I wish we Christians could learn Paul's grace and method of confident affirmation when communicating to one another. It makes the gospel very attractive. So many times in the age of social media on the internet, I have seen great sin in the lack of grace we extend to each other in our "discussions". And with sadness and a repentant heart, I acknowledge before God and others that I have been guilty of this as well from time to time. My take-away from Philemon is to be comitted to gracious speech, even when I have to say hard things. Confident encouragement should guide my communication with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Who is with me on this one?

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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