8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. – Philemon 1:8-14
This is something that has been close to my heart of late. Paul here feels like he has the authority to command Philemon to “do the right thing,” but he doesn’t seek to use that authority. The reason he refrains from it is because of love. We tend to think of obedience in terms of something required or as a duty, but the biblical picture of obedience is much different. It reminds me of the movie, The Princess Bride, where we learn that as Westley follows the commands of Buttercup and responds to each one with, “as you wish,” what he is really saying is “I love you.” May we each follow God by saying “as you wish” with “I love You,” in our hearts.