Is There an Edge to Your Playfulness?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Please get a room ready for me. I hope your prayers will be answered, and I can visit you.
Over the last few reflections on Philemon, we haven’t spent any time thinking about Paul’s methods of persuasion in this letter. At best, we might say that Paul is being a bit playful in this letter to Philemon and his church. The letter is clearly intended to pressure Philemon into doing what Paul wants for Onesimus. If Paul is being playful, there is a real edge to his playfulness. And rightly so, because this is a very serious matter for Onesimus.
Paul begins the letter emphasizing how much he values Philemon, how much he considers Philemon to be a model of Christ’s love for others. He promises that he is not trying to coerce Philemon to do the right thing, but he also states that he knows Philemon will do the right thing. At his most aggressive, Paul reminds Philemon, “Don’t forget that you owe me your life.”
If nothing else, I leave the book of Philemon feeling empowered. Paul puts the pressure on Philemon to do the right thing. Paul is kind, but he is also direct. Paul is subtle, but his intent is clear.
Paul is also practical. He knows that words are cheap without accountability. It isn’t enough to just send a letter, Paul reminds Philemon that he may visit in person. The final verses of the letter echo Christ’s return. Unlike Paul, Christ isn’t imprisoned. Far from it! Christ is already living and working in the world through his people, and he invites us to be his coworkers, filled with his Spirit and living in submission to the Father.
And yet, just as Philemon may have felt removed from Paul, I may sometimes think of my daily routine as somewhat removed from Christ. It’s ironic, isn’t it? The goal of our site is to help people integrate their faith and work. And the Senior Editor often struggles to integrate faith and work. Yet I know that Christ is returning soon. He wants me to get everything ready for him, because he hopes my prayers for his return will be answered soon.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you surprised by Paul’s methods of persuasion in this letter to Philemon? Who helps hold you accountable as you strive to live with honor at work, at home, and in your community?
PRAYER: Dear God, like Philemon I need someone to hold me accountable. I’m afraid that my faith is often weak. I need someone who is going to visit me in person, eat a meal with me, and help me evaluate where I can honor you more through my life.
I thank you for your grace because I know the things I do can never be enough to restore my relationship with you. Thanks be to God that you sent Jesus to redeem the whole world, even me. Forgive me, Lord, that I sometimes feel very distant from Jesus. I am used to conversations with people I can see and touch and hear.
I desperately want to see you, Lord, and touch you like Thomas did. Help me serve you faithfully in all that I do until the day that you come again. And, Lord, come quickly, okay? Amen.
P.S. from Mark Roberts: The Daily Reflections for this week have been written by my friend and colleague, Marcus Goodyear. He has penned a wonderful five-day series based on the New Testament book of Philemon. I know you'll find these to be engaging and encouraging. In his "day job," Marcus oversees The High Calling website and digital community in his role as Senior Editor at Foundations for Laity Renewal. He is a teacher, poet, writer, speaker, and top-notch editor, not to mention husband, father, and valued friend. I know you'll appreciate Marcus' thoughtful reflections this week. I'll be back with you on Saturday.
Image by CJ Anderson. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.