“Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you – since I am as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus – I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,” Philemon 1:8-10
A demand hardens the will, but an appeal softens the heart. No doubt, the church is the army of God, and led by The Champion, Jesus. Those who receive His marching orders will follow His lead wherever it takes them.
Those called to mobilize the church must do so by appealing to them, without barking orders at them. Paul placed the highest priority on appealing to God and leading Christian brothers to pray for one another, and for those who are in authority. For a an appeal to soften the heart, and not harden it, The Appeal must begin as a prayer to God, before it is put before a brother.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;” I Timothy 2:1 KJV
Paul used an unusual word to express, “I rather appeal to you.” Six times this word is translated as pray or prayer, and it directly related to the word that at times is transliterated into English as “paraclete.” It describes the work of The Spirit of Christ as the one who is called alongside, and comes alongside of a person in distress to bring comfort and strength for courageous living.
Paul resisted the temptation to exercise his authority over Philemon. He didn’t get in his face, but appealed to his heart. This glimpse into the early church reveals Paul understood that there were times when the fellowship of believers functioned best as a family. Wise leaders can discern when it is time to go to war, and when it is time to throw a family reunion.
Paul had no fear of stepping up to the plate when it was time to lead. He also had enough confidence in Christ to lean into The Yoke and to trust Him to do the heavy lifting in changing a person’s heart.
The Appeal begins with a prayer to God, in the name of Jesus and releases the power of The Spirit to soften the heart of a person who needs to be reconciled with his brother. Philemon was in need of a blood transfusion for courageous living that had no cultural expression or legal precedent.
Paul was not a afraid to be the lead off hitter, but also knew that fearlessness and prayerlessness become a toxic tonic when mixed together, and injected into the Body of Christ. He was humble enough to dial it down a notch in his exercise of his authority, and appeal to The Spirit of Christ to change the heart of Philemon towards Onesimus.
Paul was gifted by God with power and authority that over-road and outranked Philemon’s status at almost every level except one. Philemon was his brother, and that precious relationship put Paul’s will on pause. He refused to make demands of his brother, but prayed for him and appealed to him as one.
Paul and Philemon shared the same spiritual DNA. Christ’s love had created their relationship, and that same love had birthed new life in Onesimus. Paul prayed for Christ to reveal to Philemon the new relationship he shared with Onesimus. They were no longer master and slave. They were brothers in Christ.
The Appeal was not a demand for Philemon to show love to Onesimus. It began as a prayer of intercession for Philemon to hear from God before he received communication from Paul.
The Appeal was a call for a work of God to soften the heart of Philemon. He exhorted Philemon to resist the urge to react to Onesimus as a wronged man, but to respond to him as a changed man. Every work of God’s grace is an answer to prayer.
Intercession involves praying for people to respond with softened hearts, when they have been wronged. Praying begins by yielding to God’s will, and resisting the urge to react with hardened hearts to those who have brought the offense.
Note to self: Talking to people without praying for them rarely improves your communication with them. If you want them to hear from God before they hear from you then pray for them before you talk to them. Intercession softens their hearts. Even the slightest observation sounds like an accusation when it has not been bathed in prayer.
Preparation for the right words to say to people is secondary to intercession done for them. Talking is a waste of breath and misses divine appointments. Precede any communication with intercession. The Appeal begins with intercession and leads to reconciliation. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!