Honey Over Vinegar
“Yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.” —Philemon 9
You’ve heard how “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
While imprisoned in Rome, Paul became a dear friend and spiritual mentor to a runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul wrote a letter to Onesimus’ owner, Philemon, a leader in the church at Colossae, asking him to receive and treat Onesimus now as a brother in Christ, not simply as a runaway slave. His tactic is pure honey.
Today’s verse is short enough to easily memorize. Paul’s entire letter to Philemon is very brief and can be read in just a few minutes.
Reading it in its entirety, you’ll see Paul begins by commending Philemon as a valued peer, specifically “a dear friend and fellow worker” in Christ.
In this approach, Paul demonstrates a very valuable leadership and people skill—graciousness.
Paul shifts from the letter’s introduction to its purpose, saying, “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.”
The apostle describes his meeting the runaway slave Onesimus, and chronicles what a blessing this man had become to him in prison. He continues, “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”
Paul was a known and respected leader. He could have directed Philemon, “Do as I say!” and offered no more an explanation than, “Because I say so.”
But Paul honored Onesimus, concluding, “I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary.”
This graciousness provided Onesimus an opportunity to do the right thing, and to be celebrated for doing it. It could be his action by choice, not of reluctance. Paul’s leadership in this instance won the day with love.
Bring the sweetness of grace to the many relationships in your life this week and going forward. Watch graciousness bear fruit…in opportunity. Honey over vinegar.
My prayer for this week:
Gracious Lord, help me be mindful of a bigger picture in all my interactions—it’s not all about me; it’s not all about this or that. In all my relationships, and in each and every encounter this week, grant me the grace to be a more effective leader and friend. Might I glorify you by honoring and treating others in love.