Daily Reading: Colossians 1-4; Philemon
The best movies are more than a fun way to spend a couple of hours, they leave us with something. And a film doesn’t have to be deep and dramatic to be able to find lessons in it. Analogies are everywhere. Learning can come from many places.
Our devotional trailer opens on a fleeing man, Onesimus, with the voiceover telling us, “Under Roman law, there were no limits to the punishment a slave master could inflict on a runaway slave….but sometimes redemption comes when we least expect it. ”
Onesimus somehow found Paul, and over time he grew a faith…and a friend, it seems. At some point, Paul sent a letter to Onesimus’ former owner, telling him he was sending the slave back to his previous master.
“ I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you… If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”
Charge it to me.
Do you see how Paul is mirroring the story of the cross here?
In this story we are Onesimus. Like him, each of us deserves punishment. We owe a debt. And like him, someone offered to take the punishment on our behalf, to pay our debt.
Someone has given us a second chance.
Maybe you’ve never really been in the position of needing a true second chance. Or maybe you have and you’ve just forgotten how demeaning and low it can feel. The graciousness of Paul, to speak of Onesimus as ‘my son’, ‘my very heart’, and ‘a dear brother’ must have allowed Onesimus to hold his head high as he returned to his former home.
The account of Onesimus and Philemon may be a short one, but the way that Paul used this opportunity to illustrate the gospel story is pure genius.
Maybe, in Onesimus, Paul wanted each of us to know that we are beloved. That we are worth saving. We are worth sacrificing for.
Maybe he’s telling us that knowing our true value allows us to hold our heads high as we live in our ‘former home’ until our forever home is ready for us. We are Abba’s children. We are Christ’s dear brothers and sisters.
This would be one movie that would pack an emotional punch, and you could be sure you’d leave the theater changed…if you were really paying attention.
And speaking of paying attention—the next time you are unsure of your standing, remember that you have a letter in your pocket that says, “Charge it to me,” and lift your head a little.
Tomorrow we will read the book of Ephesians.