What I read today;
Philemon; John 5; Jeremiah 5; Psalm 39; 1 Samuel 22; Exodus 24
What motivates us to follow Jesus? Why do you do it? Is it because your family did? Maybe it was because you were raised in the church? Could it be that you enjoy the interaction with the people in the church each week? Is it out of a sense of obligation?
Or is it that you love Jesus?
Paul is in a tricky spot. Like it or not, slavery is legal in the Roman world. I get the feeling that Paul really wasn’t all that thrilled with the practice. The problem that Paul is in is that escaped slaves when they were caught, were subject to horrific punishments. Onesimus has become a trusted friend and follower of Christ. He’s confided in Paul that he has escaped a slave owner who Paul knows.
Now, what do you do?
So Paul appeals to the one thing that should make a difference. The love of Jesus Christ. Paul tells Philemon that he could order him to free Onesimus. But if he commands Philemon to release Onesimus, and he does it, would it be out of a sense of duty, or out of a sense of love?
God doesn’t want us to follow his commandments out of a sense of duty. A sense of duty is what we do to avoid being punished. It’s that idea that if I disobey the school zone speed limit and I get a ticket, I’ll have to pay a fine. So I obey the speed limit in the school zone. It has nothing to do with the love for the children in the school zone or their safety, it’s only out of fear that I obey so that I want to pay a fine.
No, Paul wants Philemon to do this because he has found the love of God in his heart. Paul uses this as an opportunity to teach Philemon about how God wants us to treat each other, especially within the family of God. He wants Philemon to release Onesimus out of thanks for what Jesus did for Philemon. In the same way, Jesus wants you and me to obey God because it is our heart’s desire to please God.
The difference between grace and the law is simple. The law is a list of dos and don’ts that we follow to avoid punishment. Grace is what we do please our savior because of what he’s done for us.