Did you know there’s a story of a runaway slave in the Bible?
Here’s the backstory. Philemon once owned a slave named Onesimus. That is, until Onesimus ran away.
But in God’s sovereignty, Onesimus crossed paths with Paul and came to believe in Paul’s Jesus. Onesimus was then a huge help to Paul, but Paul didn’t feel okay partnering in the gospel with Onesimus without Philemon knowing about it. So Paul wrote Phil a letter.
In it, he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back. But not as a bondservant. He asks Philemon to consider him as “more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother.” Now that Onesimus has put his faith in Jesus, they belong to the same family. God is their Father, and they are now brothers.
This would’ve been a crazy news flash for Philemon, almost too much to take in without sitting down. Paul was telling Philemon that his slave, Onesimus, was no longer a second-class citizen. Even though they ran in different circles and seemed to have almost nothing in common, and even though Philemon may have thought he was much better than Onesimus, they were actually equals at the cross. The gospel tore down every barrier that separated them. Jesus welcomed them both into the family of God, so they were now brothers in Christ—family.
Reminds me of Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (emphasis added).
We’re not told how the story ends, only that Paul is confident Philemon will obey him and will view Onesimus as more than.
And that’s where you and I come in. I bet you don’t own slaves, but you do know misfits. People we view that way, anyway.
- Maybe you view that girl at youth group—the one with the lip ring—as a misfit. Or maybe you view that girl without piercings as a misfit. But have you ever stopped and thought of her as more than a misfit . . . as your sister in Christ?
- Maybe you refuse to even make eye contact with that guy who smells like he sleeps in a trash can. But do you realize he’s more than a misfit . . . he’s your brother in Christ?
- Maybe you make fun of those quiet sisters with the long skirts and braids. Or maybe you look down on those girls wearing the tight skinny jeans. But do you receive them as your sisters in Christ?
Just because they look or smell or act differently than you, do you really believe God loves you more because you perceive yourself as more “normal” on the outside?
Or are you flat-out stunned that God would pick you up out of the trash heap of sin, clean you inside and out—even your heart—and open wide His arms to you? Cause He did that for you. And for them.
They are so much more than a misfit . . .
FYI: This post was inspired by a sermon Brad Neese preached. I didn’t have the privilege of hearing it, but I heard about it from those who did.