Devotional Thought: A Spoonful of Sugar (Philemon 4-5, 7)
When I was a kid, medicine for children tasted awful! My mom would add sugar to the medicine to help me swallow the thing that would make me well again. I think she got the idea from Mary Poppins. You remember...“a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down …”). Paul was applying this idea to Philemon in our text for today.
Philemon had a challenging situation to face. What would he do with Onesimus? He, no doubt, had encountered several opinions on the matter from multiple sides: church, family, staff, business, and society. Paul would, in just a few verses, articulate his own opinion/request in a clear and compelling way.
Paul knew when the heart and mind are about to receive a strong challenge, they need preparation. Our verses for today represent that preparation for Philemon!
To make certain Philemon could hear the truth in a way in which he could respond in faith, Paul first needed to make a few things clear.
Paul affirmed his close relationship with Philemon – “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers...” He acknowledged the good reputation Philemon had among the churches - because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.” Paul even shared how Philemon’s life had positively impacted his own - “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”
Confrontation happens best when ground-work is laid first. Such ground-work should strengthen the relationship by affirming the positive things people are already doing and the ways in which they have blessed your own life.
When we convey this type of information first, we protect those we are confronting from misinterpreting our correction as an attack. It will assure them our motives are for their highest good.
I heard of a guy who decided to join a gym and hire a personal trainer. When they spoke on the phone, the man was impressed by the trainer’s knowledge of nutrition and exercise.
However, when they met the next day, the guy was shocked. The trainer’s muscles were flabby and there was clear evidence of a “spare-tire” around his middle.
The one searching for a trainer came right to the point, “How can I trust your guidance in nutrition and exercise when you obviously don’t apply it in your own life?” He promptly left the meeting.
While I may have responded differently, I understand his point. Our actions often prove or disprove our words.
In the same way, as we talk to others about God’s love, the way we actually speak to them can prove or disprove, to them, the content of our words. The way we present an issue can either open their hearts or enable them to resist.
When we endeavor to speak the truth in love, we must realize that agape-style love is distinctive. It looks/sounds a certain way (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
Truth should be carefully spoken through an environment of patience, kindness, selflessness, humility, graciousness, calmness, in giving the benefit of the doubt, mindful of the deceitfulness of sin, and in conveying a secure commitment to the one spoken to.
Rev. Will Mackey
Adjunct faculty & Director of Enrollment Management
Filed Under: Blog Published: 10/09/2018