This sermon is part of the sermon series "Introduction to Philemon". See series.
Coco was a pit bull mix, just barely one year old. As a puppy she was dumped on the freeway and rescued by a teenager who handed her off to another friend who eventually gave her to yet another friend who then left her in the hands of an animal shelter. When Clayton and Deanna laid eyes on the homeless dog, it was love at first sight. With three soaring hearts and one wagging tail they brought their newly adopted pet into a loving home at last. It wasn't long, however, before they discovered a secret: Coco had issues. With Clayton and Deanna, Coco was loving and obedient; with other people she was hostile and aggressive. They hired a dog trainer who specialized in aggressive breeds, and over the next few weeks, Coco stopped fighting with other animals. No more random barking. No more racing through the house. No more digging in the yard. For months they trained Coco faithfully and witnessed with delight her gradual transformation. Their story seemed destined for a happy ending—except for one thing: Coco remained hostile towards other people. Clayton and Deanna had to keep her penned in the yard when anyone came over for dinner. On walks they had to keep her on a tight choke collar, muzzled and away from children. In fact, Coco's aggression was so strong, it soon became unlikely that any additional training would help. Despite their best efforts, Clayton and Deanna came to the realization they couldn't keep her. After much prayer and discussion they made a hard decision. They had done all they could to save this dog. Now exhausted, they chose to do the responsible thing, however heartbreaking it was.
This story illustrates a foundational principle, one that underlies Paul's entire appeal to Philemon: As humans ...
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