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Words of Faith 12-27-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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[12] I am sending him--who is my very heart--back to you. [13] I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. [14] But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.


      Paul was sending his precious son-in-Christ, Onesimus, back to Philemon to face a potential criminal case.  A lot was at stake.  Why should Philemon do anything different than pressing the charge and turning Onesimus over to the authorities upon arrival?  There were several reasons.

      There is an unstated premise here that Philemon had a choice.  In some criminal cases, there is no choice. Still, in this situation, Philemon had the influence, and he could choose to drop the charges or even set Onesimus completely free. 

      Beyond that, there appears to have been a relationship of some accountability between Paul and Philemon.  It probably went back to the fact that Paul had also apparently led Philemon to Christ.  

      What is spiritual accountability?  It is permission to speak freely and ask questions.  Accountability gives another believer permission to speak into your life when they see something that may need correction.  Accountability requires trust.  Accountability gives permission to another person to ask questions about something that may not appear to be right or glorifying to the Lord.  We all need spiritual accountability. 

     Paul was speaking gently into Philemon’s life.  He must have had permission to do so, perhaps as a mentor, as a pastor or as a friend. Paul reminded Philemon that he owed Paul a lot and that Philemon could have been called into service to help Paul.  In a sense, Onesimus was taking Philemon’s place.  That was a robust and accountable thought.

     But for Paul, it was most important that any decision be completely voluntary.  We will see Paul apply his influence strongly, but it was still important that any favor extended not be forced.  That would not be grace.  Accountability allows the other person to make a decision without coercion. 

     Paul will press hard in this letter, but the decision had to be Philemon's, or it would not be of any meaning.  Forcing someone by the strength of your personality to “do the right thing” is never really the right thing.  No one learns or grows from coercion.  A battle may be won, but the war will rage on.

     Do you have some relationships of spiritual accountability, people that you have given permission to speak into your life without negative repercussions?  It is important that those people feel free to observe and report something that might be in your blind spot.  It is also important that you have the right to make a choice without coercion.  The right thing for the wrong reason is not the right thing.  Motive matters.

      Accountability is usually reciprocal.  Some special mentoring relationships build mostly one-way accountability.  But if you are expecting someone to allow you to speak into their life, it makes sense that you would allow them permission to speak into yours.


      Father God, connect me in relationships that are strong and healthy.  Give me the grace to be accountable to trusted brothers or sisters in Christ.  Give me discernment to be a watchful aid to those You put in my life.  In Jesus’ Name.


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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, and our website, and our church app, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.  

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