Summary: Narrative sermon depicting the life of Onesimus

“Profitable Slave”

It was a spontaneous act. The temptation was more than I could bear. If you were in my place, I’m sure you would have done the same. I mean, if you saw the things that Philemon had, I’m sure you would have understood how much more I needed it and how little Philemon did.

It was mid-afternoon, and during that time Philemon is always at the market doing business with people. Rarely am I inside during that time of the day but it was pouring rain so I took the liberty of entering into Philemon’s house uninvited. It was risky, but I did it anyway. I just needed some time to dry off a bit. I stood in the house where Philemon and his group of Christian friends held their worship meetings. These friends came from all over, some from as far away as Rome, but most lived fairly close to the area. Philemon never had anything bad to say about his friends. He always spoke fondly of a man by the name of Paul. Paul was a devout Christian man who was a strong influence in Philemon’s life. I had seen Paul coming and going many times.

I had only been in this place a few times. What if Philemon were to ever walk in on me? I could just imagine how angry he would be. What would he do? He would probably whip me, that’s what! Yes, I was taking a considerable risk. It was a nice house. I never understood why anyone needed this much stuff. If it were me, I would be content with just half of what he owned. Oh well, some people are just lucky I guess. There was an oven on the other side of the room. Perhaps, I would dry off quicker if I stood over the oven for a while. As I made my way over my attention was shifted elsewhere. The greatest temptation that I had ever encountered was lying right there on Philemon’s table. I could feel my heart racing, the palms of my hands were clammy in no time. I couldn’t believe what was going through my mind.

Forget the oven, I was being warmed by sheer enticement. I understood the risk I would be taking, no I was taking a risk by just being in Philemon’s house. What I was thinking of doing was suicide. But I was completely blinded to what I knew to be right. But then I started asking myself what I really had to lose? I had nothing to live for anyway. My desire to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity overwhelmed me and so I chose to look past my fear.

My body was cold, my arm numb as I reached for my prize. What was I going to do now? I was too bold for my own good. The deed was done and I had stolen a great deal of money, I had defied my master and now there was only one thing I could do now . . . run, run for my life. I knew I had to leave quickly because it wouldn’t take my master long to discover that his money was missing. I quickly packed what belonged to me and rushed off.

Beads of sweat were rolling down my face as I ran as fast as I could further and further from the only place that was home to me. I was at war with my conscience thinking about the magnitude of the decision that I had made. Now the question was, what now? Where do I run to? The odds were against me. Philemon knew more people than I ever did. No one would feel pity on me. And frankly, I wouldn’t blame them. Where do I go?

My name is Onesimus and I am a servant from Colossae of the household of Philemon. I am the exact opposite of my master, a man of no reputation. Nor will I ever have any. I have nothing to offer.

I don’t try and fool myself, I understand that someone like me isn’t considered a person really, but more like a living tool. In this world you learn to live with what you have been given in life. It’s not easy. I have learned to accept the scars and bruises that seem to come regardless of how hard I try to please people. The simple fact is my life isn’t worth the sandals that I wear.

My journey brought me to a large wheat field where I figured was secretive enough that I could relax privately. And so I attempted to sleep. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well at all. I was too busy trying to come to grips with what I had just done. Never had I ever done anything this horrible. Perhaps the only time that came even remotely close was when I failed to meet stable requirements. I’ll never forget that day. I failed to clean the oxen stalls to Philemon’s satisfaction. I could have made excuses to try and defend myself, but it would have done me no good. Excuses are only excuses. I knew that and Philemon did as well. And I was punished severely that night.

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