Saturday, August 28, 2010

Calling in a Favor

Philemon 1:20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

20 ναὶ ἀδελφέ, ἐγώ σου ὀναίμην ἐν κυρίῳ· ἀνάπαυσόν μου τὰ σπλάγχνα ἐν Χριστῷ.

It's hard to pick something to write about in this short letter.  Paul is writing to his friend Philemon about the escaped slave Onesimus.  Apparently Onesimus was Philemon's slave, ran away, met Paul, and then was saved by Christ.  Paul is making Onesimus do the honorable thing by returning to his master, but he is sending him with this note that appeals to Philemon to set Onesimus free.  Paul starts his argument on the basis of the fact that Philemon and Onesimus are now brothers in Christ, but Paul turns the screws a bit as the letter proceeds.  He basically says that he could command Philemon to do this since Philemon owes Paul his very life.  Plus, Paul is an apostle after all.

I'm not sure that this was necessarily Paul's intention, but what strikes me about this letter is how loathe we are to ask each other for anything.  As Christians we are quick to help someone out.  We help a brother move his house if we can.  We give people rides.  We give money and food to folks in need.  We serve at church.  We do all manner of things to help out.  After all, that's what Christians do.  You can't miss that if you read much of the New Testament.

But are we so quick to ask for help?  Not necessarily in a quid pro quo kind of way, but just in general?  We should not be bashful about asking others to help us.  Yet we don't.  Why is that?

I think it's pretty clear for me that pride gets in my way.  America is (or perhaps was) a great nation because of its can-do attitude.  If there is an obstacle we will either overcome it or outflank it.  We are used to being self-sufficient and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps to do what needs to be done.

Yet that is not the way it should be.  We should confidently ask others for help.  It blesses them by being able to help us.  And of course we should be ready to help others.  We don't necessarily need to get to the place where Paul is effectively "pulling rank" on Philemon.  We just need to humble ourselves by asking.

Am I the only one who struggles with this?  How about you?


JS Allen said...

Yep, rings true for me. Although, it's a little easier when we're doing it on someone else's behalf.

Ian Shepard said...

You ask why it is that we don't ask for help. My answer? Pride. We're confident in our abilities to help others but to show our needs is to say that we're inadequate in taking care of our own needs, or to concede defeat against the things with which we battle. If we are to be the humble servant leaders that the Bible demands we must be strong and confident in what we are able, but we must also know our limitations. A good father will see his own limitations in his abilities with his family and will seek out people in his local church who have been through his struggles and have, through the grace of God, been able to come through them. There is little that has more impact on me than a mentor who has the experience that comes from a lifetime battling with sin and the wisdom to share it with a new generation.

What a fools am I to insist that our my strengths will save me when I have a church full of Christians who are ready and willing to step up and assist me in my walk.