January 12, 2009

Lagniappe from Philemon

In Cajun Louisiana (Tobey’s growing up stomping grounds) … they have what they call lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap). It means ‘a little something extra.’ So, when you go to the Cajun Café, and order a Shrimp PoBoy, maybe they toss in a couple of extra fried shrimp or hushpuppies, on the side, as lagniappe. And, as we worked our way through three messages on Philemon, there were a handful of points of interest and/or side notes for which we did not have sufficient time. So, I thought I’d toss them on your plate today, as my own little Ohio version of lagniappe.

“Not … by compulsion.” Paul says, in verse 8, that he has every right (as an apostle of Jesus, and a brother in Christ) to “order” Philemon to do what is right (to release Onesimus, the slave). But instead of ordering him, he appeals to him; he pleads with him. And in verse 14 he tells us why … so that Philemon’s goodness “would not be, in effect, by compulsion but out of [his] own free will.”

I am intrigued by how Paul handled things. He could have ordered Philemon, but instead he asked. How does this translate for us – in parenting and pastoring, in the office or the classroom, in the church business meeting, in marital relationships, and so on? Quite frankly, I am not sure where all the lines should be drawn. For there are plenty of times for simply giving commands (as Paul makes clear in numerous other places). But according to Philemon 14, there are also times for pleading and waiting. Right decisions may happen a little slower this way. But maybe they will happen a little deeper, too.

So, if you are in a position of leadership (and especially in spiritual matters … parents, elders, husbands) … the question is worth considering: ‘Is this a time for pleading instead of ordering? Is this task so urgent that it must be done, if necessary, by compulsion? Or should I plead … and wait for goodness to come by his or her own free will?’ It’s a question I definitely need to further consider. Maybe you do to.

Mark and Demas. At the end of Paul’s letter, he gives his customary greetings from friends – two of which come (v.24) from quite intriguing characters. “Mark”, you may remember, had once been in Paul’s dog-house. Early on, he had travelled with Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys. But, somewhere along the line, he wimped out for one reason or another. He went home early from the trip. And Paul was so upset about it (Acts 16.36-41) that the missionary society was split in half. And yet here, in Paul’s final imprisonment, Mark is back at his side – both forgiven and, once again, useful in the cause of Christ.

What a contrast, then, when we compare Mark with “Demas.” You wouldn’t know it from Philemon 24 (for here, Demas is at Paul’s side just like Mark) … but, in a very short time (as Paul informs us in 2 Timothy 4.10), “Demas, having loved this present world has deserted” Paul. And the New Testament never restores his reputation. So, apparently, he did the opposite of Mark. Mark ran away at the first, but came back to Jesus forever. While Demas stayed around for quite a long time, and deserted Christ at the end … all because “he loved this present world.”

So … which one are you? A Mark? Or a Demas?

1 comment:

Heather said...

You just can't get any better than a shrimp po-boy!

Thanks for your thoughtful posts, I am often encouraged by them! Have a good trip!