Look Back | Look Down
Begin your time by reviewing the Scriptures and the important points of the sermon taught in The Row.
Welcome to the fifth week of our winter series, Making Your Mark, exploring the lives of a handful of people mentioned at the end of Paul’s letter to the Jesus community in Colossae. This week, Pastor of Student Ministries Aaron Buer highlights Onesimus’ story. When we think Onesimus, we should think “Purpose.”
Onesimus is a runaway slave, whose name actually means useless. The Jesus story revolutionizes his life, giving him purpose and making him useful as he pursues the Christ. In Onesimus’ story, we discover Jesus calls his followers to three purposes: healthy relationships, living counterculturally, and sacrifice.
Spend five minutes reading Colossians 4.7-9 and the book of Philemon aloud. Discuss what you notice in these verses. More in-depth questions will follow.
Look In | Look Around
In The Circle, consider together what God is asking you to do and encourage each other.
Playing on the meaning of Onesimus’ name, Paul says Onesimus went from useless to useful. Onesimus found Christ and discovered his purpose. He realized he was part of something much bigger than himself. Sometimes pursuing what culture tells us life is about can leave us feeling like something is missing. Have someone from your group share about how finding and following Jesus has given their life purpose.
Onesimus is a runaway slave who probably stole money to finance his escape. Following Jesus means embracing Jesus’ call to pursue healthy relationships, so Onesimus gets on a ship and heads back home. How do you think Onesimus felt as he journeyed home?
Discuss these three aspects of healthy relationships:
- Reconciliation. Onesimus hopes to reconcile his relationship with Philemon. What are some ways our relationships often get out of whack? What are some tangible first steps we can take toward reconciling those relationships?
- Attention. Sometimes a relationship needs more attention to be healthy. What relationships are easy to ignore or let slide for a bit? What are some ways you’ve found helpful to make sure your relationships get enough attention?
- Boundaries. There are times when having a healthy relationship requires we institute boundaries— whether this is avoiding certain places or being careful not to establish inappropriate relationships. How have you seen or experienced a lack of boundaries undermine healthy relationships? What types of boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships?
Paul asks Philemon to welcome back Onesimus, the once runaway slave, as now a dear brother. In this culture that would be unheard of. Philemon chose to value Onesimus instead of treating him as the culture dictated.
Today, one of the most pressing issues in our culture is the divisive nature of many conversations we hear in the news, social media, and around the water cooler. Just as Philemon brought peace and reconciliation by acting counterculturally, how can we act counterculturally to bring peace to the increasingly polarizing conversations? What are some ways we can value the people we are conversing with instead of disparaging or demonizing them the way culture dictates?
The small group is one of the best places to talk about important cultural issues. However, the conversations will only be valuable when we are willing to listen to what others have to say and speak from a place of humility. What do you think you could do as a small group to create a safe space to talk about important issues while still treating each other with love?
Paul highly values Onesimus’ role on his ministry team. Paul could have rationalized keeping Onesimus with him. He was, after all, doing God’s work. But Paul puts the well-being of Onesimus and Philemon before his own. Paul’s actions show he understood life wasn’t all about him. Why do you think Paul was willing to let Onesimus return to Philemon?
No person embodies sacrifice and an “others first” mindset better than Jesus. It is at the heart of who Jesus was and is. Read Philippians 2.5-8 together. To say “yes” to Jesus is to say “yes” to putting others first. How did Jesus sacrifice and put others first? List a few ways Christians have impacted the world by putting others first. What are some steps we can take to sacrifice and put others first in our daily life?
Where do you feel challenged by what we learned from Onesimus’ story? What is a step you can take to have healthy relationships, be countercultural, or sacrifice by putting others first?
Look Forward | Look Out
This coming week, spend time in The Chair with God and go engage the broken world around you.
In the Chair this week…
- Write out Philippians 2.5-8. Thank Jesus for putting others first.
- Onesimus’ new purpose called him to healthy relationships. Take a step toward reconciling a relationship, give one the attention it needs, or create proper boundaries this week.
- Ask God to help you know where you need to swim against the current of culture by valuing the things Jesus values.