Are You Childlike or Childish?

July 18, 2017

I am continuing my brief time away investing in my own heart, mind, body and soul. I treasure your prayers. My good friend, Omar Al-Rikabi, will continue to lead us through “Five Days With Philemon.” Omar pastors the First United Methodist Church in Heath, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. You will love him.


Philemon 7-9

7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.
8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. 9 But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.

CONSIDER THIS

Paul is getting ready to ask his dear friend Philemon for something big… something that is going to have major implications for his life, the life of a slave, and for the gospel. Paul has the authority and the power to tell Philemon what to do, but instead he writes:

I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you.

Think of the importance of Paul’s approach this way:

One of the big lessons we work on (a lot) in our house is not just what we say, but also how we say it. I have three daughters ages 8, 6, and 2, so this is an ongoing lesson. The most common lesson revolves around asking for something.

For example, if one of our kids shouts,“I want a banana!” and throws a tantrum, my wife says, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.” Eventually they learn and re-learn to calmly say, “Mommy, may I please have a banana?”

It takes constant vigilance and work, because for kids it’s natural to default to immature demanding and anger. But it can also go the other way.

One night at the dinner table, my then 3 year old didn’t get what she demanded, and so turned on a big frown and started grunting in protest. My wife said, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” while I started laughing because I thought she looked and sounded like me. I turned to my wife and said, “I can’t believe my 3 year old already acts like a 41 year old.”

My wife replied, “Or maybe my 41 year old acts like a 3 year old.”

Burn.

“I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you.”

How we say something to someone is just as important as what we’re saying. We are ready to teach and re-teach this lesson to our children, but sometimes we need to learn and re-learn it ourselves.

Our current conversational climate is hostile and toxic, especially when talking about the two things we’re not supposed to talk about in polite company: politics and religion.

We’ve probably all seen that our tweets, posts, and comments demanding people see our side or believe our cause – and then throwing a kind of tantrum when they don’t – are, well… childish. And what do almost all of us do when approached with childish demands?

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.”

None of this is helpful with the urgency and importance of the gospel we’re called to share in love.

I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you.

Tomorrow we’ll see that Paul, in a sense, is going to dive into a hot political and theological issue with his friend. But first, he’s going to be sure it’s not just what he says, but how he says it. After all, in Paul’s other letter to the same town where Philemon lives, he writes in Colossians 4:

Pray… that God will give us many opportunities to speak about this mysterious plan concerning Christ… [and] let your conversation be gracious and attractive, so you will have the right response for everyone.

Because maybe part of having faith like a child, rather than being childish, is to be re-taught some of our childhood lessons.

To be continued…

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you said to have faith like a child. Help us to remember that the power of life and death is in what we say… and in how we say it. May the words of our mouths be full of life, bearing fruit, and pleasing to you. In your name we pray, amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What do you do when an argument or debate gets nasty? Do you double down, or do you tune out?
  2. How do you think the good news of Jesus has been lost to the way we talk to each other?
  3. What would it look like for your conversations to be “gracious and attractive?”

For the Daily Text I’m Omar Al-Rikabi.

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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