October 17th 2009

What Motivates You?

6th of a series of studies from Philemon

“…I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love”

Philemon 1:8 (NIV UK)

Why do we do the things we do? Is it out of a sense of duty or a sense of love? 

Of course we do many things because we have to. Like getting up in the morning, going to work, doing the laundry. Maybe we act out of habit more often than not. Patting the dog, kissing the wife? (Joke…or is it?). 

What about our relationships with others? Are we kind to them because we have to be? Because we are duty bound to be kind? 

In this passage Paul is about to ask Philemon to accept someone who has treated Philemon badly. He explains that, because Paul is his supervisor in the church, he could order Philemon to be gracious and accommodating. When Paul says he “could be bold” the original Greek refers to the freedom of speech that occurs between good friends. Do you have a close friend who can say anything to you? That is the idea here. 

Paul knows Philemon’s reputation for kindness and sincerity in the faith, and instead of using friendship or the chain of command to motivate Philemon, he appeals to the love that he knows exists in him. The word for love in this verse is “agape”, and refers to the godly love of Christ Jesus within the believer. It is this “agape” love that drives the believer to witness to the faith and to care for others. “For Christ’s love compels us”, Paul told the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5:14). 

Maybe if Paul had ordered Philemon to take the runaway slave back, Philemon would have done so but would have been resentful. Do you ever follow an order but resent being told to do it? I know I do. Better to be motivated by the love of Christ within us. When I let the Spirit of Jesus encourage others through me it becomes a pleasure more than a duty. 

We all have things to do and duties to attend to, but when it comes to relationships let love be the motivating force. 


Our Father, in my relationships with others let Christ’s love within me be the motivating force.


Study by James Henderson

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