Accordingly, although I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) Philem. 8-11
Dear Lord Jesus, what a great story these few verses tell—the story of how one man’s “useless” slave became another man’s beloved son. Stories like this make the gospel beautiful and believable; they also reveal how much we need the gospel. I see myself in this story, both as Onesimus and as Philemon.
Lord Jesus, thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for coming after me when I was running away from you as fast as I could—just like Onesimus ran from Philemon. Overtly and covertly, I did everything I could to avoid you and ignore you; but you found me, you bound me to your heart through the cords of the gospel. And slowly but surely, you’re changing me. The journey from living like a slave to laughing like a son hasn’t been quick or easy.
I also know what it’s like to be Philemon—to be disappointed with people. Like everyone else, I’ve been failed and hurt; I’ve experienced betrayed and have suffered loss. But forgive me for ever thinking about or labeling anyone as useless. Paul saw something in Onesimus that Philemon didn’t see. Jesus, you saw something in me that no one else saw.
Please give me your gospel eyes to see what you see in other broken people, just like me.
Who have I branded “useless,” with either my actual words or unspoken words? Who have I written off? Who have I renamed “failure,” “worthless,” “you’ll never amount to anything,” “you’re never to be trusted again”? With whom have I over-reacted and under-loved? Having good boundaries is one thing; building alligator filled moats around my heart is quite another.
Forgive me and free me to love others as you love us. None of us is beyond the need of your grace and none of us is beyond the reach of your grace. So very Amen I pray, in your chain-breaking name.