Where’s your prodigal?

” . . . the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining”. – 1 John 2:8b

Has someone you love walked away? Rejected what you believe? Who you are? The way you live? It hurts, doesn’t it? And nothing you do seems to fix the problem.

Then sometimes God steps in. And when he does, we find out he had a plan all along. Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, a 1st-century Christian. One day, Onesimus ran away. Runaway slaves in that time could be put to death. It was a serious crime to break free.

Onesimus headed for Rome, probably thinking he would never be found on the crowded streets. But, God made sure Onesimus met Paul, and Paul introduced him to Jesus. Everything changed for Onesimus at that moment, and Paul apparently told him he had to make things right with Philemon. He had to go back home.

Paul sent him on his way with a letter to Philemon explaining the change in Onesimus now that he was a Jesus follower. He asked Philemon to take Onesimus back, not just as a slave, but as Christian brother. In fact, Paul says that maybe, just maybe, Onesimus’ escape was for an eternal purpose: “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for awhile, that you might have him back forever.” (v. 15)

God knows the bigger picture: He may have a plan for our prodigals that means we can have them back forever. So we stand still and strong, praying and trusting that, at just the right time, he’ll step in to help them find their way back to him and back to us. Keep the light on.

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott



6 thoughts on “Where’s your prodigal?

  1. Paul’s the lighthouse here, to me. Onesimus went to him as a runaway slave – very brave. Many Roman citizens would have just turned him in. And I always thought he was creatively correcting Philemon. A bit of a contrast to the prodigal, where the son has enough confidence in his parent’s mercy to go back willingly. And even then underestimated his mercy and love. Without Paul’s intercession, it sounds like he would expect Philemon to be back at the status quo. “From Paul, who is a prisoner for Christ Jesus…” is a great statement of solidarity with the slave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It always amazes me, though, that in all of Rome, Onesimus and Paul met. Seems that the Holy Spirit had a big part in all of this. God’s intervention is the hope we all have. I really like your insight into Paul’s solidarity with the slave. He must have known the angst Onesimus had to feel to return to Philemon after his escape. Took great courage!


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