“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” so someone said. Being separated for a time and for a purpose accomplishes some amazing things. I’ve seen it in holidays where much needed rest grants time for a new perspective. I’ve counselled it on occasion where a relationship is strained and at the breaking point.
In Philemon v.15-16 Paul suggests a possible positive reason for the ‘prodigal period’ of Onesimus. Paul is not all-knowing, but as he thinks of the changed person this ‘runaway slave’ has become, he challenges Philemon to consider the benefits.
“Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good–no longer as a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.”
Onesimus had his issues which had driven him to depart. God had His purposes which had been evident in what had happened in Rome. Paul had his pen and he suggests that Philemon is welcoming home a new man. What difference does regeneration make in a life? What spiritual life is imparted to a man who was dead in his transgressions and sins? Paul urges Philemon to welcome home this new convert and view him no longer just as ‘property’ but as a ‘person’ a new person, a brother, part of the same family of God.
The family of God is filled with people with whom you and I might not naturally choose to associate. But grace changes everything. God is in the “new beginnings” ministry as sinners are brought to repentance. May God challenge us this day with a fresh view of others!