I was reading Philemon today. This book in the New Testament is very small and contains just one simple chapter containing a letter from Paul to Philemon. Yet its purpose of instruction is mighty! Onesimus was a slave and he had run away. Some commentators say that he had stolen from his owner and then ran away but as Paul only states “if he owes you anything” I can’t say that I agree completely with their assessment. However, the main purpose isn’t really about how or why Onesimus became separated from Philemon. The main purpose is that Paul is trying to be of service by being a good influence and a mediator between the two men. The most striking point is that Paul is still in prison but he did not let that stop him from doing good where he could!
Reading this chapter today made me think back a week or so ago when my niece had called and asked me for advice on finding a new church home closer to where she is living. Elizabeth has moved out on her own and isn’t always making the best choices as a “grown up.” I think its pretty safe to say we’ve all been there, done that! Elizabeth has many friends that she could be getting advice from but I was pleased that she recognized those friends don’t always have her best interests at heart and that she really wanted to talk with someone she could trust. I recognize through this passage that even though I don’t live at home or in my hometown anymore… haven’t for nearly 19 years… I can still be a good influence on others whom I have relationships with, whether I am nearby or not.
I also recognize with this passage that people change. No matter what good Onesimus did for Philemon while he was with him originally, Philemon still probably only thought of Onesimus in the negative after he ran away. It took recognition by a friend who was in good standing with both men to be a mediator between the two. Philemon needed Paul to give him perspective on the situation. Onesimus needed Paul to give him courage to return. In meeting the needs of both men, Paul was not only a good influence, but a godly one as well!
Do people look at you as a godly influence? Who are some people who’ve been a godly influence for you?