Over the past two Saturdays, we have been looking to the tiny book of Philemon for Biblical instruction on how to give correction. We’ve seen that things go better when we first build up the one being corrected, and we saw that we must approach our request with humility, with a personal appeal rather than with a command.
There is just one more important lesson we can learn from Philemon about giving correction…
“So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I Paul write this with my own hand: I will repay it. I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!” (Philemon 1:17-19 NLT)
What? Wait. Isn’t Onesimus the one who should receive correction for running away? At the very least, it is Philemon who should be corrected if he doesn’t accept his slave back. Paul isn’t in need of correction here! He is the one providing the correction! Why should he be the one who suffers? Why should he repay? What is he? A glutton for punishment?
No, it isn’t comprehensible for our human minds to think of the one providing the correction to have to take the punishment. It doesn’t make any sense to us at all from our Earthly perspective. Yet isn’t this what Jesus did for us? We sinned, we should be the ones taking the consequences for our poor choices. But Jesus, in His ultimate, incomprehensible love for us, made a way by taking our punishment onto Himself! Check this out:
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.” (Romans 3:23-25a NLT). And we are told to follow His example: “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21b NLT).
It may seem strange from an earthly perspective, but the advice for giving correction here is to offer to take the punishment!
When my kids were little, they often needed correction. Once in a while, God put it on my heart to take their punishment for them. I would tell the perpetrator that his punish was _________. I would remind him of how Jesus took our punishment for us; and that to help them understand the greatness of Jesus’ gift, their punishment was to administer what they should be suffering themselves — to me. It was always with tears and humility that they half-heatedly administered their own-deserved punishment, and I found that this was an extremely most effective way of ensuring the “crime” was never repeated.
This last take-away, then, on how to give correction based on the book of Philemon, is to be willing to take the punishment they deserve … upon ourselves! This simple act of selflessness solidifies to the one needing correction that we don’t take pleasure in correcting them. Rather, it is our deep love for them, our longing desire for them to abandon the sin, whatever it may be, that motivates the correction.
The next time it is your responsibility to provide correction, be it routine correction of your children or grandchildren, or be it the correction of a brother or sister in Christ, I urge you to following the Philemon formula:
1. A spoonful of sugar: Start out by emphasizing the good that is in them;
2. Catching flies with honey: Approach the person with all humility. Make it a request, not a command, and make it from a personal level.
3. Glutton for punishment: Help the person understand that your motivation in correcting them is deeply rooted in your love for them; and remember that on occasion, the most effective way to help them understand this is to offer to take the consequences upon yourself!
May God bless each of us with wisdom and love as we seek to provide correction — the Philemon way!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart
Author, Moderator, Associate Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries
(To access the entire “How to Give Correction” mini-series, please click here!)