God’s call to advocacy — to plead another’s cause — is spread across the pages of the Bible, and we see powerful stories of Biblical characters who put that call into action. In both the Old and New Testaments, God calls on advocates to speak boldly, whether or not they believe they’re qualified. Each of the six advocates below combines their faith in God with a unique advocacy strategy, and God uses them all powerfully to bring about justice.
At just 25 verses, the book of Philemon is one of the shortest books of the Bible. But it’s a powerful example of Paul using every strategy he can to encourage Philemon to accept Onesimus, a runaway slave, back into his home.
We aren’t told why Onesimus ran away or how exactly Paul knows him. We do learn that Onesimus became a Christian while Paul was in prison and the two have become close friends. Now, Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon so they can be reconciled.
He writes to Philemon,
“Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: 13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: 14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. 15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; 16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?” (Philemon 12-16).
Paul is strategic. He knows he has authority in the situation, but instead, he says, “yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love” (Philemon 9). He extols Philemon to welcome Onesimus as he would welcome Paul himself.
Paul appeals to Philemon’s faith to convince him to do the right thing. This is a beautiful example of someone using their influence to speak on behalf of someone else.