The definition of this runaway slave's name is "useful."
I can relate to this man. This man sinned against another. This man was reborn, under the teaching of the Gospel by Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
This man was sent back to the one whom he had offended: Philemon. Philemon was housing church meetings in his home. Philemon had a runaway servant. Onesimus was that servant.
Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon. Paul gave accolades to Christ for the changed Onesimus. Paul took on any debt that was owed Philemon by Onesimus.
Paul beseeched Philemon to accept Onesimus as one of the saints of God. He did not defend what sins Onesimus had done. He urged Philemon to love him as a brother; a brother in the Lord who obviously repented.
Paul accounted Onesimus as useful. Paul wanted them restored one to another. Paul wanted God to get the glory in their lives.
I can relate to Onesimus. I have sinned against others. As I read this epistle today, it resonated deeply with me. Just last night I was in a conversation about a family member, that has regularly occurred these past years, with my brother; and every time it does it is an emotional one. It is due to the sins of my past.
I offended one I love, due to my selfishness. They were hurt and disappointed; and rightly so. I am ashamed of myself.
When the Lord gives me the opportunity to go back to the "land of my nativity," I plan to go in person to the one I offended. I plan to answer questions, give account for my actions, and Lord-willing put to rest the discord in this one's life I have caused. When I read Philemon today, I wondered if Onesimus thought similarly.
I cannot completely relate to Onesimus, in the fact that I am not going to one that has professed to be a born-again person. Yet, I can relate on many other levels. Having to travel to make amends; having broken trust; having been a selfish, thoughtless-of-others person...Yes, I can relate.
God will receive the glory in this situation, though. Somehow, I pray, He can use me to do good in this person's life. Somehow, peace will ensue; I pray. Maybe I can be an Onesimus: useful.
"Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Written from Rome to Philemon, by Onesimus a servant."