WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “but God” (Gen. 50:20; Acts 13:30; Eph. 2:4; etc.). Several times in the Bible and in my life, there seemed little reason for hope – but God…
Onesimus knew the feeling well. He was a run-away slave who had been known as “useless” even before he stole what he could and disappeared from everything he’d known. He found refuge among the masses of Rome with no hope and no prospects. But God… brought Christians, the gospel, and Paul across his path and Jesus into his life. He was totally transformed and began serving Paul in prison.
However, God is intent on redeeming not only our inward character but also our outward relationships. Paul directed Onesimus to go back home and make things right. He sent him with a personal letter to his old master, Philemon, who “just happened to be” the apostle’s convert and friend.
“[I] appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I became his father while I was in chains. Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. I am sending him back to you – I am sending my very own heart. I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent … perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave – as a dearly loved brother” (Phile. 1:10-16).
Scripture doesn’t record the outcome of this reunion, but Paul had no doubts about it: “I am confident of your obedience…knowing that you will do even more than I say” (Phile. 1:21).
WONDERFUL THING IN OUR LIVES – Jesus changed everything for Onesimus. He can do the same for you and me:
Our identity – As a slave, Onesimus probably had little relationship with his father and may not have known him. Even his name was one commonly given to slaves, and it meant simply “useful.” Jesus gave him not only a Father in heaven but a father on earth: Paul called him “my son Onesimus…my very own heart.” For some of us, the Lord has made up for the pains of our birth families by the joys of God’s family. They help us know who we were meant to be.
Our effectiveness – From “useless” to “useful.” Onesimus never lived up to his name, Useful, until He met Jesus. Each of us can accomplish much more than we can imagine by of the presence of Christ in our lives.
Our direction – From running away from trouble to moving toward wherever God sends us. Christians walk through life on a mission; they are not just out for a stroll.
Our value – From used to loved. God loved us before we did anything for him. His love is not our goal; it’s our starting point.
Our relationships – From runaway slave to “dearly loved brother.” Christ redeems the most broken relationships.
Our destiny – From a temporary place on earth to a permanent home in heaven.