“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—”– Philemon 1:8-9 (NIV)
Paul could have used positional authority (he was an apostle, after all), instead he appealed to Philemon on the basis of love. Positional authority will produce results at times, but not changed attitudes or hearts. Wrestling with all of the dynamics that maintain a loving relationship is more challenging, but in the long run it produces results and fruit that go well beyond the task at hand—it gives us a perspective that will guide us for the rest of our lives.
Positional authority in the church is never a good thing. It divides and separates instead of drawing us together in Christ. On many occasions Paul makes it extremely clear that it was not a good thing to use positional authority. Paul even refused to take the right of pay from the church saying it would “discredit” The Gospel, even though he could have claimed that right as an apostle. In other places he said not to take food from others because if you did not work you should not eat, and that he never ate anyone’s food that he did not pay for. Paul seemed to understand and completely grasp that he was PART of the Body of Christ, but not a HEAD or a Leader who had special rights or position that should be taken under the New Covenant.
Paul made tents and paid his own way so that he could share the Gospel without any strings attached or messy complications. I feel that this is quite admirable and an example we all should follow today. Technically, by the letter of the Law, Paul could have demanded the rights that his position called for. Yet he did not, so that he could be a mere brother in good standing AMONG all of Christ’s body and NOT a LEADER ABOVE everyone else.
Paul made this appeal on the basis of love and not position. This is the example that I want to follow and emulate. Even as a parent I would rather explain where I am coming from in love to my children, instead of making a demand due to my position as their father. And when it is time to make decisions within the Body of Christ I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the Body and share only my portion of the process, making not demands, but suggestions from my unique perspective. Just as the rest of the Body is free to do.
The thing I value most in life and in the church is relationship. I feel that having some sort of positional authority takes a lot away from relationship, so I simply refuse to go there. I always want my motivation to be LOVE and NOT position. I do not want to leverage others because I have some sort of special role to play, because in fact we all in the Body of Christ are special, vital and important to the life and well-being of the church. So I will continue to make appeals and give suggestions, but I will not give edicts or demands. This seems to be working well for me and all the relational home fellowships I now relate to, so I am not about to change my role as a sibling and peer to those I love and serve. I sincerely hope I have given you all food for thought today.
Love and ……
Kirk Out !