To know when to be generous and when firm—that is wisdom. ~ Elbert Hubbard
As the story goes Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who robbed him and then ran away. When Onesimus took flight, God kept pace with him stride-for-stride. Amid all the drama the physically imprisoned, but spiritually free Paul -- and the physically free, but spiritually imprisoned Onesimus, became father and son through the redemptive message of Christ!
Then came the truly radical part -- Paul would not simply return the fugitive slave to his good friend Philemon. Instead, he sought reconciliation between Onesimus and Philemon. Not a reluctant reunion of slave and owner, but a new formed partnership of brothers in Christ!
How do we handle it when, like Paul, we must follow the endless ripples of conversion's effect and challenge a friend to break from cultural norms that are contradictory to all that being in Christ represents. Especially when we know that the decision will impact all that is public in our friend's life?
Paul did it privately, making the basis of his appeal Love, rather than his authority. He drew from the vast well of wisdom he had gained through spiritual maturity. And Paul spoke from personal empathy for Onesimus -- Paul knew first hand what it meant to be spiritually free but physically bound.
Willingness to leave the safety of our private convictions lovingly, wisely, and empathetically, we may touch a life that changes the world.