8. That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do.
9. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me — Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.
Philemon 1:8–9 NLT
In Today’s Passage, I decided to employ a short Text to take a closer look at Paul’s personality and Leadership Style. We are right on the cusp of the actual issue at hand here and the reason Paul wrote the Letter in the first place but it is noteworthy to look at exactly how Paul approaches this potentially explosive subject so that we as Christian Leaders, can model his methodology.
Now, as we begin, we must understand that Paul is the Leader of the entire early Church and as such, he has the authority to compel the saints, even the Church Leaders, to do whatever he believes is right. This influence is why it is so essentially important to select a Leader that is Worthy of the Position, Capable of Responsibly doing the job, and Righteous in their actions and decisions. Otherwise, if your Leader is corrupt, self-serving, or simply wrong, you may find yourself marching toward a cliff instead of the Mountain Top.
Paul tells Philemon, “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,” (KJV). In other words, “I know that I’m being a bit forward as I ask you this but let’s be honest, if I were to decide to, I could command you to do this in the Name of Jesus…because it is right.”
Now, let me ask you, if you heard that from your Leader and you knew that you were obliged to actually follow their request, wouldn’t you cringe at what was coming next? If you read yesterday’s DAILY WORD commentary, you know that we talked about the best way to deliver tough news to someone. We are now seeing why Paul chose to write the way that he did to Philemon.
He is about to deliver some news that is going to be hard to hear and that is not all. He’s going to make a request of Philemon that he may or may not agree with. It is always better to be tactful about such subjects as a Leader than to just rip off the proverbial band-aid and let the individual deal with the pain on their own terms. As a Christian Leader, you have to understand tact as well as tactics.
Paul mentions doing the right thing in Verse 8. If he was asking Philemon to sin or do something that was against the Will or Word of God then his request could be denied and Philemon would have no responsibility to follow Paul’s request at all. However, Paul knows that what he is about to ask is both Godly and Ethical. He is Standing on the “Moral High Ground”, and he knows it, so asking this instead of demanding it is simply a courtesy to a man that he has indicated is his friend.
In Verse 9 he goes on to say, “Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” (KJV) This gives us an interesting view into both who Paul was and the kind of Leader he was as well.
He was asking Philemon to do as he requested because he loved him when he easily could have just told him to do it and not concern himself with how he felt. But Paul not only cared about his friend’s reaction to his forthcoming request, but he was also concerned for his feelings about it as well.
This shows us what kind of man Paul was and the kind of Leader he strived to be. He wanted his saints to do what was right but he also wanted them to do it of their own accord, not to have to force them to do it against their will.
As such, Paul added another tidbit of information into Verse 9 to add a little bit more positive motivation to Philemon’s decision before actually making his request. Paul knew that what he was about to spring on his friend was going to be hard to swallow and he wanted to ensure that it would be viewed with as much deference as humanly possible.
This is why I think he adds the fact that he is an old man and that he is in prison when he is writing this. Now, Philemon is likely to have already known that Paul was in jail, and he for sure knew that he was his elder but this goes to show just how touchy a subject Paul is broaching.
He is pulling out all the stops as far as influence goes. He wants Philemon to seriously consider his impending request and for him to respond in the positive, without being angry about it. Therefore, he not only tells him just how much he respects him and his Work for the Lord but he reminds him that he could demand it of him, and he leverages that authority as gently as is possible. But ultimately, he uses his Love for his friend to make his request.
Tomorrow we will finally get to just what Paul is asking of Philemon but as of now, let’s look closely at just how Paul asked. He is giving us the Blueprint on how a Christian Leader should break bad news and ask a saint to do something that they may not fully understand or agree with.
Some Leaders get so full of both their perceived and actual God-Given power that they seem to forget tact. They overlook the feelings of their audience, instead, focusing on the request, neglecting to take into account how their Message is being accepted.
Paul, as always, is the consummate Christian Leader. He is showing us all how we should approach this dilemma and do it with Love, Concern, and Tact. We would do well to study, model, and enact these tactics when it is our turn to break some bad news or make a tough request of another saint of God.
Have a Wonderful Wednesday and Make Good Decisions out there!