Summary: Even when we feel like demanding or presuming, we have to be careful to do what is right. Thus we must develop the art of making ethical requests.
Requesting Or Demanding?
1. I remember a woman raising a stink at the downtown post office. She complained that her mail was not in the box, and it was past 8:30 AM. She mentioned that her dad had worked at the Federal Post Office, and that he would have never allowed such slackness.
The clerk was kind and assured the woman that they did their best, but all to no avail. After the woman finally left in a huff, I tried to encourage the clerk.
I told her, "I don’t know who that lady is. Never met her before. But do me a favor: please do not invite her to the church I pastor!"
2. We can be rude when it comes to making requests. Hence we see the difference between making a request and a demand. And beyond this difference is the deeper subject of ethics, politeness, and consideration.
3. Let’s look at the dictionary definition of these terms. Request, "the act of asking, or expressing a desire, for something; solicitation or petition." Demand, "to ask for as a right or with authority."
4. God can rightly demand of us, and He does. The 10 Commandments are not the 10 Suggestions. They are demands.
5. But humans have sinful hearts, and so most of our demanding is sinful. Sin is very much about control and power. Not always, but mostly. Because we tend to be self-indexed, we can easily exaggerate situations. So, because we are dishonest with ourselves and want things to go our way-- or because we are insecure, we find it easy to demand rather than to kindly request.
6. Demanding creates much relational fallout, so we need to save our demands for situations when demanding is appropriate. As Larry Crabb puts it, "Demandingness is a serious problem partly because it rarely feels like a problem."
7. The children of Israel in the wilderness…instead of entreating God for meat, they demanded by complaining…you can also demand by badgering, nagging, and overkill.
8. We all know folks who are habitual demanders. Perhaps we sometimes find ourselves among them -- I know I do.
9. The situation at hand: Onesimus had been a run away slave….
10, Paul wanted Onesimus to stay with him so badly he could almost taste it, but he chose not to exploit his authority, but to make an honest request of his friend Philemon.
11. One purpose of Scripture is to teach us ethical (righteous) behavior, often through positive models, like the example of Paul.
Main Idea: Even when we feel like demanding or presuming, we have to be careful to do what is right. Thus we must develop the art of making ethical requests.
I. Paul Does Not Demand, but REQUESTS (8-11)
A. He wants Onesimus to be allowed to be his HELPER (8-10)
Note the distinctions between a request and a demand…
1. A CHOICE not to pull rank It was the ethical thing to do
• he could have demanded, technically
• the Sermon on the Mount principle: the extra mile
• but that brings up a question: the extra mile for whom?
• Paul had to choose between walking the extra mile for Philemon at the risk of losing even the first mile for Onesimus; but Onesimus had done the wrong by deserting Philemon (and probably stold from him)
• sometimes favoring one person disadvantages another; like a umpire’s call
2. Must be SINCERE
A demand masked as a request is worse than a demand. Like giving kids a choice when there is no choice. "Would you like to go to Gramas?" implies of the option of choosing either way, and it is frustrating when kids believe their parents have given them a choice when it is a farse.
3. Accurate Expression of INTENSITY
• All requests are not equal.
• Some things have a lot of consequences, others a little
• King David was in exile and craved water from Jerusalem…
• Inflating our requests equalizes their importance.
4. EXPLANATION of the rationale It was the ethical thing to do
B. Onesimus’ REGENERATION made him key in ministry (11)
Play on words here. Onesimus means "useful."
•Paul was, among other things, asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus because Onesimus had repented and was willing to return and make amends. Repentance shows itself by accepting responsibility, not rationalizing our sins away.
Application: God sometimes works in the lives of people, like Onesimus; we must avoid being gullible, but, on the other hand, we must provide opportunities for growth and the establishment of credibility.
Even when we feel like demanding or presuming, we have to be careful to do what is right. Thus we must develop the art of making ethical requests.
II. Paul Knew That Salvation Does Not Eliminate RESPONSIBILITY (12-16)