September 8, 2019 Sermon
"The Difficulty of Giving (And Hearing) Advice"
Old Testament Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 18:1-11
New Testament Scripture Reading: Philemon 1:1-21
Sermon: "The Difficulty of Giving (And Hearing) Advice"
Mostly because it’s not easy to accept advice. It’s especially not easy to accept advice that is unsolicited. And, really that’s the most common kind isn’t it?
Unsolicited advice? The kind where you really weren’t hoping for or expecting the unwelcome benefit of someone’s superior knowledge? That kind of advice? Yeah, that kind of advice is never easy to accept. But there is plenty of that kind of advice floating around.
Now, one would think that being a pastor would make it easier to give advice. But no. I’m in the same boat as anybody else when it comes to giving unsolicited advice. It bounces right off. It doesn’t matter that I have an actual diploma in my office that states plainly that I am a Master of the Divine, when I give advice that has not been requested, I might as well be talking to a fence post.
And really, that’s the way it should be. Too often, we are quick to judge the circumstances of other people’s lives. We are quick to assume we know all the ins and outs, the problems and the solutions, and with the benefit of our clear eyes and wise understanding, we are ready to jump right in and fix the problem.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way. Not for me, anyway. Maybe it works for you. That’s great. But the reality is, we can’t know all the angles of another person’s difficulty. We can’t know everything that’s going on, and yet, we presume to give advice anyway.
It’s no wonder the advice falls on deaf ears.
In our text today, the Apostle Paul is writing to an acquaintance of his, Philemon, from a prison cell. And he is not necessarily giving advice. He’s not even giving orders, the way we are used to Paul doing when he writes to the church. Rather, he is pleading. He is appealing to the angels of Philemon's better nature. He is asking Philemon to take an extraordinary spiritual leap of faith. And there is no guarantee his request will be honored.
And it’s quite a request. Paul is asking Philemon to free Onesimus, Philemon’s former servant. A servant who had run away from Phileman. Paul is asking him to welcome him home as a brother, and free him from his bondage. It’s a spectacular request.