In the church today we need more people like Onesiphorus. He’s one of those biblical characters that is easily overlooked as we tend to focus on the “giants” of Scripture (e.g., Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, etc.).
Consider, for example, what we learn of Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:15-18:
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.
Three things about Onesiphorus stand out:
- When everyone else abandoned Paul, Onesiphorus went to him. Onesiphorus was not one to just “go along with the crowd.” He risked ridicule, mockery and scorn to actually go against the prevailing tide of popular opinion regarding Paul.
- Onesiphorus persevered in the face of difficulties. So many of us have great idealism—until it get’s hard. Then, we turn away. Not Onesiphorus. When he arrived in Rome and could not find Paul, the apostle commends Onesiphorus’s perseverance: “when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me.” Beautiful.
- Onesiphorus was proud of Paul. This is far greater than simply saying “Onesiphorus refreshed me.” If that’s all Paul had said we might wonder if Onesiphorus did it quietly—perhaps at night when no one could see. Did he sneak over to Paul’s cell when no one was looking because he was embarrased by his association with Paul? Not this friend. Paul, perhaps with tears, wrote that Onesiphorus “was not ashamed of my chains.” Onesiphorus did not care what people uttered or murmured—he was proud of Paul’s determination to suffer for the sake of Christ.
What enabled Onesiphorus to act like this? What makes someone this counter-cultural? I can only conclude that Onesiphorus was so overwhelmed by his love for Jesus that he was now free from the approval of people; free from the fear of scorn; free from the allure of the world; free from indifference. Onesiphorus, by the power of the Gospel, was free to love.
What I see in Onesiphorus is the embodiment of Galatians 5:6 namely, “faith working through love.” Onesiphorus’s faith had an impulse—and that impulse was love. And this love was not weak or afraid or self-conscious in any way.
God help me to love like this.