I have been pondering over something recently. A question: “What kind of a ‘Friend’ am I?” What kind of a friend are you? Have you ever stopped to think about that question? Especially with social media these days, it seems like the term/concept of “friend” doesn’t really mean what it used to mean.
Consider Facebook, for instance. Facebook allows you to “friend” someone, or request someone to be your “friend,” or you might get a “friend” request from someone else. Sometimes you may know them really well, and others you may not know so well.
Think about that, as I ask you about a particular person from the Bible, and if you would “friend” the Apostle Paul.
In the church today we need more people like Onesiphorus. He’s one of those biblical characters who can be easily overlooked as we tend to focus on the “giants” of Scripture (i.e., Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, etc.).
Consider, for example, what we learn of Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:15-18 –“You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me–may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!–and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.”
According to something I read from Mike Pohlman, three things in particular about Onesiphorus stand out:
1. When everyone else abandoned Paul, Onesiphorus went to him. Onesiphorus was not one to just “go along with the crowd.” He risked ridicule, mockery and scorn to actually go against the prevailing tide of popular opinion regarding Paul.
2. Onesiphorus was not dissuaded by initial difficulties. So many of us have great idealism – until it gets hard. Then we turn away. Not Onesiphorus. When he arrived in Rome and could not find Paul, the apostle commends Onesiphorus’s perseverance: “When he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me.” Beautiful. What a friend!
3. Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul. This is far greater than simply saying “Onesiphorus refreshed me.” If that’s all Paul had said we might wonder if Onesiphorus did it quietly – perhaps at night when no one could see. Did he sneak over to Paul’s cell when no one was looking because he was embarrassed by his association with Paul? Not this friend. Paul, with perhaps the same tears I have welling up in my eyes as I type, wrote that Onesiphorus “was not ashamed of my chains.” Onesiphorus did not care what people uttered or murmured – he was proud of Paul’s determination to suffer for the sake of Christ.”
What enabled Onesiphorus to act like this? What makes someone this counter-cultural, this counter-human? I can only conclude that Onesiphorus was so overwhelmed by his love for Jesus that he was now free from the approval of people; free from the fear of scorn; free from the allure of the world; free from indifference. Onesiphorus, by the power of the Gospel, was free to love.
What I see in Onesiphorus is the embodiment of Galatians 5:6, namely, “faith working through love.” Onesiphorus’s faith had an impulse – and that impulse was love. And this love was not weak or afraid or self-conscious in any way.
God help me to love like this.
Think about it for a moment. What things might we do this week to demonstrate our love for a dear friend, family member or stranger? How can we practically show our faith working through love this week?