8 “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 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 (ESV)
Today’s text focuses upon the Apostle Paul’s personal mentoring and advising on behalf of his brother in Christ, Philemon. the apostle’s introductory greetings and remarks are concluded. For the apostle, it is time now to address the heart of the matter with his fellow worker in the faith.
Paul admitted that he could have commanded Philemon to do what is required of every believer. What is required, and what Paul will speak of, is the doctrine and discipline of Christian love. As previously mentioned, this love is a self-sacrificial love of the will (I Cor. 13:1-8). It was a discipline for what Philemon had a reputation for having. What this man had displayed in the past Paul appealed to him to practice in the present.
The apostle approached the situation, and his friend, with the perspective of being a mentor to a younger protégé. Paul acknowledged that he was an old man when he wrote this letter. He was also imprisoned for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
However, advancing years and a great distance would not dissuade the elder Christian statesman from mentoring his younger brother in Christ.
Mentoring is the task and responsibility of advising or training someone who is younger or inexperienced. A mentor counsels, guides, teaches, supports and advises children, employees, a church congregation or students of all ages. The word mentor originated from the Greek word Mentōr. This was the name of the adviser of the young Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “The apostle uses all his personal force to bring about a Christian answer to a very serious problem. Paul’s judgment appears to be that Philemon should show mercy to the offending slave, for the sake of Christian love toward a fellow Christian. Paul’s letter is passionate but carefully composed to achieve the desired end. The document was written in his own hand (vs. 19), and is much more than an example of rhetoric. It brings us close to Paul’s ministry, so that we can practically feel his profound desire to make Christian love the first rule of human action.”
In our relationships with fellow believers, may self-sacrificial agape love always be the standard for which we are known. I encourage you to read and meditate upon I John 4:7-11 today.
Soli deo Gloria!