Choices, choices. Life or death?
Mind you, even if you choose Life – Jesus says it isn’t an easy ride.
There are no riches or social status on offer. In fact Jesus says, it is probably a good idea to sit down and count the cost of following the one who proclaimed himself to be “The way, the truth and the Life”.
After some careful thought you might decide that you don’t have the stomach for it!
Jesus says that He has to be your number one priority, outranking everyone, even your mother and father, wife or children, brothers or sisters. I even outrank what I know is your number one priority – yourself.
With typical Semitic hyperbole Jesus says you have to “hate” those members of your family if you decide to choose Life and follow me as a disciple. In another place Jesus describes it as “taking up your own cross and following Him”
Discipleship calls for a particular kind of blinkered single minded belief that there is nothing greater or more important in the whole world than following Him.
If a sweetener were needed though, Jesus does say that if you are that single minded and really do seek first the kingdom of God then everything else will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33).
Many would see slavery and freedom as natural opposites as Life or death, but of course the slave doesn’t have the freedom to make that choice for himself.
Paul’s friend Philemon has a slave called Onesimus whom Paul clearly wants to be set free, but Oaul doesn’t want to strongarm Philemon or issue a decree: Philemon is his friend and he dearly want him to come to the same conclusion for himself – from within.
If he can convince Philemon that Onesimus is a brother in Christ, just as Paul is, could he not convince him to see the truth that a brother in Christ can never also be your slave.
Paul treads a tightrope, wanting Philemon to see the light but without ordering him to set Onesimus free. We don’t know what happened but we can hope that Philemon did just that and within this short letter we have an example of how to persuade and cajole and get people to see sense and make the decision themselves.
There is a saying that goes “One willing volunteer is worth ten pressed men”.
Ordering people to change their ways because you say so doesn’t pay dividends, but if you persuade someone that it is the right thing to do and it was, after all, their own decision to do or believe something you have made a powerful convert convinced of the rightness of what they are doing.
Persuasion, with respect and gentleness is always more long lasting and effective than issuing orders no matter how self evidently right we may feel they are.