Not By Compulsion

"I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord." (Philemon 1:14)

There can be times when circumstances dictate that we should act in compliance, though in our heart we’d rather act differently. Philemon was a close co-laborer with the Apostle Paul. Philemon owned a slave, Onesimus, who probably was marginal in his duties and eventually ran away from Philemon’s mastery. Sometime later Onesimus was incarcerated where he met Paul in prison and Onesimus gave life to Christ. He was radically transformed. Upon release Onesimus is willing to continue his service to the Apostle, but Paul understands the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus is more important than the service he himself would receive. Paul writes Philemon knowing Onesimus was an escaped, unprofitable slave. He wanted Philemon to decide from his own heart what to do with Onesimus – let him stay with Paul or accept his return. Paul knew if he personally asked Philemon to keep Onesimus, he would likely consented. Instead of feeling compelled Paul wanted Philemon to act willingly.

The good things or right things we do as Christians, especially in areas of inconvenience, (I’m thinking midweek prayer for example) are better done out of personal preference and not merely obligation. Paul saw certain providential and spiritual values for Onesimus’ original departure, though on the surface his actions were improper, vv.15,16. In similar perspective, while convenience or compulsion is never a fundamental criterion for your action, maybe the Lord has some great lesson or benefit for your willing acts of goodness.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in

due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

--E.C.Malone, 01/15/16

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