Philemon 1:12-14 (KJV)
Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
Paul demonstrated in this action, a generous and appropriate means of making a request.
Onesimus was a slave who had escaped to Rome. There he came into contact with Paul, probably being drawn to him because of his friendship with Philemon, Onesimus’ master. (Does this hint that Onesimus’ conscience had stricken him?)
Paul was blessed to lead Onesimus to a saving faith and would have loved to have him stay and be both, discipled by Paul and be a help to Paul. There is even, it seems to me, a veiled request for the same to Philemon. But Paul did it right. He sent Onesimus back so Philemon could make a fair decision whether to send him back to help Paul or not. He did not keep Onesimus and send a letter by some other means saying to the effect, “I have Onesimus. I led him to the Lord. I would like him to stay here and help me in your place. What do you say?”
I have been manipulated by more than my share of Christians who know it is their ethical duty to ask my permission for one thing or another but, wanting to be sure the permission is granted, couch the request in such a way that I will appear the bad guy if I do not grant it.
If a decision maker is not free to choose the negative, he has not really been given the authority the petitioner pretends have submitted to.
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Philemon 1:12-14 Really, This is How To Ask
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