Paul is not one given to empty expression. And so when Paul told Philemon that Onesimus was his “very heart” (vs.12), we are told a great deal! Here is a former Jewish rabbi now turned long-time Christian evangelist speaking of a runaway, Gentile slave, still quite new in Christ, as “very dear” (vs.16) to him, something like “a son” to him, in fact (vs.10). The differences between these two would have been legion, yet in Christ, they had found fantastic kinship and oneness. No doubt each could see in the other some of the very long road traveled to get to where they were now in Christ.
Now most all of us have a small circle of people we consider our “very heart.” They are our true family, perhaps as close, or even closer, than our biological kin. But I have to wonder how many of those we are closest of all to in life are people with whom we share faith in Christ, and not only kinship in Christ, but are people who are very much unlike us.
Where Christ is truly at work in our lives, we will find him actively chipping tearing down the walls that would normally separate us from others. Over time, we find that “our heart network,” the product of Christ’s work, is composed, at least in part, of people we would never have chosen on our own with whom to be one. Yet, they are the ones who have become “very dear to us.” Indeed, we would sacrifice whatever was asked of us to benefit them, so close we have become to them. Differences such as heritage, race, economics, social standing, language even, melt away as we stand together in the presence of Christ.
That is the way Christ’s family, the church, is supposed to be. That’s the way the church of Christ is supposed to be in you and me. It is up to us to let it be.
God our Heavenly Father, bless us all, all who call on you in Christ’s name, with a fresh vision of what you would have us to be in terms of heart and life toward each other. Amen.