Practical Proverbial, from Philemon, 9 October 2010.

I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.  Philemon 19 (EHV).

“I’m writing this in my own hand” is a strange thing to say in a friendly letter, but Paul says it anyway.   It was a way of personally verifying that the letter was, in fact, written by him.  If you think about it, in the first century, there probably wouldn’t have been any other way to say or do something, publicly and in writing, that would verify in such a way.  Paul often dictated his letters, but on this, most likely because he was asking such an unusual thing, he wanted personal authenticity.

Yet the most amazing thing about this verse is the second sentence.  “You owe me your very self” is a massive boast.  Most likely it goes back to when Philemon became a believer.   Biblehub reminds us that Philemon was a wealthy man whereas Paul was the person in need.  Yet in this extraordinary book it is Paul who assumes the upper hand, doing so on moral and spiritual (rather than financial) grounds.  It makes sense, then , since Paul was the person who first brought the world of Christ to Philemon, Paul would make such a claim as “you owe me your life.”

I suppose that desperate times call for desperate measures.

Can you make that boast to anyone?   Are you the Apostle Paul to someone’s spiritual Philemon?   People are always saying that we don’t always know the effect we have on other people.   We should live out our lives genuinely, not in two-faced or double-minded ways, so that people see Christ when they see us.   A friend of mine said (of his seminary years) that he and his fellow students often held second jobs when they were putting themselves through seminary.   Many of them worked in construction and blue collar trades.   One of his professors reminded them that they should live their lives in their second jobs so as to not make it difficult to believe they were studying to be pastors in their primary jobs.   Walk the walk and talk the talk because others are watching.

If we’re believers, it should show because what we say and do affects others.   We may just be the one person in someone’s life who brings them to Christ, who shares Jesus in such a way that it’s life-changing for them.  For me, that person was my uncle.   And my pastor-friend that I mentioned above (any of my pastor friends, actually).   And my aunt, who reminded me in a dark time, to keep faith and keep writing these blogs.  I owe them my very life, both in the spiritual and even physical senses.  I was once desperate too even when I didn’t know it.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 16:21, Philemon 20

Lord Jesus, teach me again today to live in ways that show off my faith in You.   Others are watching.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 17 January 2018

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  1 Thessalonians 1:6-7.

People are watching.   That’s one of the most urgent reasons why we should walk the walk and talk the talk.   It’s also one of the things I really stink at doing.  If you don’t walk the walk and talk the talk, people quickly notice because people are always watching.  People are quick to find out if you’re a fraud or a hypocrite.

Have you ever had to learn to do something strictly by rote?   There’s a reason.   And have you ever had to watch what you say around kids?   Kids who are learning to talk will imitate what adults say.   They are always watching.   And what about the jackals of the press?   Sure, a free and independent media is crucial to keeping government within its boundaries but it seems like the American press is everywhere these days and reporting EVERYTHING, fact and fiction alike.   What’s more, we the people enthusiastically gobble up what they feed us.

It’s because we’re watching.   We’re watching each other and learning to imitate what we hear, see and do.

Paul praised the church members in Thessalonica for imitating the behavior he and his companions exhibited.  What was that behavior?   Loving on each other; forgiveness; understanding; patience; forbearance; self-discipline; empathy and caring; you know, the behaviors Jesus demonstrated.  These new believers acted the way they saw their ‘prophets’ acting and, in doing so, led a revolution around them.   It was how the church spread so quickly, not by the sword (as happened later with Islam) but by the conduct of these Jesus followers.   And it did indeed spread quickly, in a generation growing from 12 frightened commoners in Jerusalem to millions of followers through Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, north Africa, and up into southern Europe.

Because people were watching.

Got skin, got sin.   We are always works in progress, but there’s always work to be done on this matter.  Folks who don’t believe are watching us for signs of our hypocrisy, whether it’s foul language, philandering, dishonesty, or what we post on social media.   I’m so guilty of messing up in all these areas; how about you?  Do you ever wonder if unbelievers are actually watching, though, more for reasons to believe instead of just how to trip us up?   We mustn’t let them down.  If, like me, you think you’re guilty of not walking the walk, chances are you are.   The solution, then, is to go back to basics and imitate Paul, Silas, and Timothy.   They imitated Jesus.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 4:16, Acts 17:5-10, 2 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Timothy 4:12, Acts 16:9, Acts 18:12, 1 Thessalonians 8-10.

Lord, please forgive me when I fail you by not living what I believe.   Help me to do better today.