Paul's Appeal

Sam Petitfils 

“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 old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus” (Philemon 8-9)

When I was growing up, and even into young adulthood, some people would remark that I often spoke with bluntness.  When I took homiletics (preaching) classes, we used to fill out evaluation forms on each other and also get one from the instructor.  Time and time again, my evaluation included remarks such as “too stern,” or I “spoke too bluntly.”  To me, I was merely speaking the truth and people needed to hear it.  We live in an age where people slight the truth, so we need to proclaim it straight up.  But then I began to read the Bible more carefully and concluded I possessed only a half-truth.  I needed to speak the truth, but do so in love (Ephesians 4:15, 25). I needed to learn the “Paul’s appeal.”

God granted the Apostle Paul great authority, and as an apostle, he not only used it, but encouraged his protégés to do so (Titus 1:13; 2:15).  But Paul was wise enough to not just bark out orders and expect everyone to obey. Instead he appealed to those he sought to change or who needed correction.

In church life, we run into this often, but we sometimes handle situations unwisely.  The same could be said for family life.  The husband might say, “I’m the head of this home and so you must obey everything I say.”  That approach is guaranteed to raise the defenses of his wife and children.  We should take Paul’s cue and begin with appealing to people who need to change something.  Paul urged Timothy to deal with those who may contradict what he’s teaching, but do so with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-25).  In the passage quoted above from Philemon, Paul reminded Philemon that he, Paul, possessed the authority to command him to deal gently with his runaway servant Onesimus. Instead, Paul appealed to him.

I have observed that people who crack whips at people usually get very short-term results.  Then resentment builds up in those on the receiving end.  The better, wiser approach will speak to others in gentleness.

This certainly applies in family environments.  Parents can grow frustrated when kids fail to “toe the line.”  Mom or dad then yell, holler, or make threats.  The kids comply, but only for a short while, and then revert back to their old ways.  Why not approach it differently?  Think long-term.  Ask yourself, “From what I told that person, do they really think I was out for their good?”  How we speak to people makes all the difference.  Our goal should be to speak God’s truth to others, but we must do it in love.  If we think about it, God does that with us.  As we read His Word, He fellowships with us, but also teaches us.  He doesn’t browbeat us, but rather speaks truth to our souls.  As a result, we change.

I’m very glad God speaks to us the way He does.  If we were to be honest, we’re not always happy the way we speak to others.  Let’s try a different approach.  Why not try Paul’s appeal?

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