Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. 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 as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—that I appeal to you.
On the Basis of Love
You can avoid doing things because you think you might get into trouble for doing them. And you can do things because you think you might be rewarded for doing them. You can get other people to do things simply by claiming it is the right thing to do. And you can get them to stop doing things simply by claiming that it is the wrong thing to do.
That way of approaching life is called law motivation. You don’t have to be Christian to think and act that way. It’s a natural way of thinking.
Christians have a different motivation for how they think and act. They appeal to one another on the basis of love. In today’s Bible reading, Paul appeals to his friend, Philemon, to do the right thing not simply because it’s right but because of love.
It’s the ideal for parenting. You want your children to do the right thing not because they fear punishment but because they love you. It’s the ideal for classroom teaching. You want the students to behave not because there are classroom rules to be followed but because they love their teacher.
It’s how God appeals to you. You don’t have to be good to go to heaven. It’s Jesus’ perfect goodness that is getting you there. So why be good? God appeals to you on the basis of love. Because you love him, learn what is right. Because you love him, do what is right and refrain from doing what is wrong.
It’s called gospel motivation. When you believe the gospel, you are moved to show your love to God by demonstrating love to other people. When you are not feeling it, go back to what God has done for you. You love because he first loved you.
Loving Lord, move my heart to show my love for you by doing what is right in the name of Jesus. Amen.