Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,  yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Philemon 8-10 ESV)
The Christian faith is unique in that it is an unusual union of authority and love. Here the apostle Paul does not invoke his apostolic authority to urge his brother Philemon to deal kindly with his now converted runaway slave, but instead for love’s sake appeals to him!
Certainly our hearts are moved when we see an earnest appeal from love, but our hearts are absolutely staggered when the individual making the plea has absolutely no need to do so. Paul was an apostle. He had seen the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He had been taken up into the heavenlies and heard things that man may not utter (2 Cor 12:4). He wrote half the New Testament. And yet here, he makes no mention whatsoever of his credentials! In fact, this is one of only three letters where Paul says nothing about being an apostle. Instead, he refers to himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus and an old man.
What a fitting lesson in leadership this is for us! Though we may have every right to make demands, for love’s sake we are to choose the road of humility, making ourselves nothing, and appeal to love instead! And is this not a perfect picture of the heart of our Lord Jesus? Though He was rich, He made Himself poor so that by His poverty we could become rich. Though He could have demanded that His followers serve Him, the Son of Man came in humility to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Though He could have condemned all of us sinners to hell, He chose to instead to absorb the torment of hell in His body until He had drained the cup of God’s wrath down to its dregs. We must never forget, that it was not nails, but love that secured God’s anointed to that cross.
Christian, is your heart moved by the omnipotent God who came as a servant and not as a soldier? Are you amazed that the infinite God should become finite to save you from your sins? Does this magnificent love humble your heart and drive you to treasure Him above all the fleeting treasures of Egypt in this world?
The uniqueness of Christian leadership is not that it is grounded in authority, but that it is grounded in love. And there is no greater image of love that is patient and kind than the one we see in the living picture of our servant King who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just good news of an omnipotent God who pardons and reigns, but of a God who loves and lays down his rights.