What a treat to hear a well-thought-out sermon Sunday morning and then live it Sunday afternoon. More accurately, I guess I should say I saw it lived out Sunday afternoon; just a privileged bystander, really.
The sermon was on the book of Philemon, Chapter 1, verses 8-16 or thereabouts.
“Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you – since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus–
I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,
Who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and me.
I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart,
Whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel;
But without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.
For perhaps he was for this very reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever;
No longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”
One of the things the sermon brought out was that in these verses, because of his authority and leadership role, Paul had every right and desire to keep Onesimus, who he refers to as “my very heart” with him; but, instead, he was sending him to Philemon because he knew that Philemon too would benefit from having him return, and this was the greater good. He sacrificed so that Philemon would benefit, and he sacrificed without asking nor receiving anything.
So Sunday afternoon I went out for a grocery run and found an elderly man waving me over as he sat in his stalled car. He wanted to use my phone to call for a family member to come pick him up, but as I spoke with him, his oxygen tank and all, I realized he was very confused and I feared for his safety. So I pulled over and waited for his wife who showed up about ten minutes later. She got out of the car and started assessing the situation, and I sensed all she could focus on was getting this poor man home. The car was having a hard time starting, and once we did get it running, it started making a scary sound, so we shut it off and were planning our next move when who should come driving down the road but a tow truck.
A little background. We live in the boonies. The only slow traffic around here is when we have to sit and wait for the cows or the chickens to cross (I’m not joking.). So the odds of a tow truck just happening to drive down the road at this exact moment is like a bijillion to one.
So the driver rolls down his window to ask if he can help and then he pulls over. This guy was the greasiest, dirtiest, most uneducated person I could have imagined. He got the car running, pulled it off the road, and then popped the hood. Honestly I was suspicious – I’ve heard some pretty bad stories about unscrupulous tow truck drivers. But this guy wasn’t trying to get the car hooked up to his rig – he was trying very hard to get it running. I discretely told him the situation and that I was worried about the man’s and perhaps the woman’s state of mind, and he said, “Hey, I really want to help these people. My mom had Alzheimers, and I took care of her until she died. I know how it is.”
So then he proceeds to tell Norman’s wife that if he can get the car started and it seems okay to drive, he wants her to jump in the driver’s seat and follow his truck to her house because if she has any problems steering (Norman had hit what he called a pothole just before the car died and the tow truck driver thought he might have damaged something underneath the car), he wanted her to steer her car into the back of his truck so he could slow her down. I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but here in Texas men love their trucks, so him offering the back of his truck as her own personal bumper pad pretty much blew me away.
See, he was so concerned about getting her home safely, he wasn’t the least bit concerned about the back of his truck.
Kinda reminds me of Paul.
I know a lot of people with all sorts of degrees who probably wouldn’t have even stopped to help, much less offered up the back of their vehicle. That man, grease, dirt and all did more in one afternoon to help humanity than most of us do in a week, probably without a high school education. By his experience with his mother, by his knowledge of cars, by his possession of a tow truck, he was prepared. An unlikely dress code for an angel. Maybe . . . Maybe not.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”