This week’s quote from N.T. Wright was chosen because of recent conversations on this blog (here) and T.C. Robinson’s blog (here) regarding the Apostle Paul approach to addressing slavery in the Epistle to Philemon. On this subject Wright writes about “Christian persuasion” here:

Persuasion, particularly the persuasion that comes “in the Lord”, is a remarkable thing. Of course it can be misrepresented: as manipulation, as bullying, as unfair pressure. All those things do exist, and they’re ugly. Often the people who don’t like the eventual decision are tempted to say that the persuasion they received comes into one of those categories.

But there is a subtle and delicate interplay between explaining something in general love, with a true vision of the gospel, and someone else making up their mind in light of it. To avoid all attempts to persuade, to encourage, to show people things in a new light, because your frightened by the accusation of being manipulative, would leave us all free–but only free to be hermits, bereft of all human contact.

Paul knew the dangers of trying to force someone to do something. His style throughout the letter to Philemon is one of gentle, almost playful, Christian persuasion.

Colossians and Philemon: Eight Studies for Groups and Individuals, 51.

For a Christian persuasion doesn’t come by force. When we try this method it usually backfires. People complain that Christians use this method too often; they also complain when we aren’t aggressive enough about certain causes. A good rule is to remember that God doesn’t force Himself on us; He persuaded us with the love of Christ.