Read: Philemon 11, 13-14
THEME: Living up to a name can be hard work. All it takes is for someone, maybe even ourselves, to set a target that makes us feel incompetent. Our role-model for turning this around is a runaway servant named Onesimus.
It is not easy to have a name that means ‘useful’ when you have run away from your job as a servant. To his employer, Onesimus had become anything but useful, but fortunately he had run to Rome and found a fresh start when meeting his employer’s friend Paul.
‘Useful’ could now become truly useful, but old mind-sets can persist. After years of being intimidated by the irony of a name that left no room for shortcomings, it would be tempting to remain in a state of presumed defeat. It takes courage to break out and to start looking outwards rather than to keep gazing within. The sight of Paul in chains may have jolted Onesimus out of any self-pity. Paul would not have asked for assistance but was later happy to write a letter commending Onesimus for his helpfulness. We have no idea what this household servant did for Paul but old duties would have taken on a new thoroughness now that they had become acts of kindness performed from the heart.
Paul’s appreciation and gracious encouragement would have made all the difference as Onesimus grew in confidence. It is possible to live up to our highest aspirations but only with the renovating power of the gospel and the transformation that comes from the renewing of our minds.
Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.