February 14, 2013 – Newsletter

The Roman historian Sallust once described a prison near the Forum in the Rome that dated back to the seventh century before Christ.  He wrote, “[It] sunk about twelve feet under ground.  Walls secure it on every side, and over it is a vaulted roof connected with stone arches; but its appearance is disgusting and horrible, by reason of the filth, darkness and stench.”  It is likely that the apostle Paul was held in this prison or in a prison similar to this while he awaited his execution.
Prison chambers such as the one described by Sallust were joyless places of despair.  Prisoners were chained to the wall as they sat and slept in their own filth.  Food and water were rarely offered to them.  They depended on family and friends to provide them with clothing, blankets, medicine, food, and water.  Visiting a prisoner, however, could be dangerous.  Visitors were often associated with the prisoner and his crimes.  Prisoners were often hungry, thirsty, cold, hopeless, and friendless.
The apostle Paul was an exception.  From a Roman prison chamber he wrote, “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day! – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Tim. 1:16-18).  Paul wasrefreshed while he was in prison.  He was not left alone and friendless.  A bright ray of light and hope entered his dark and dreary prison cell in the form of Onesiphorus.  He proved to be a true friend and servant to the apostle Paul.
What would you have done if you had learned that your brother in Christ was sitting in a prison chamber needing to be refreshed?  Would you search for him even though you might have to travel many days to reach him?  Would your love for him motivate you to leave your family for a period of time to tend to him?  Would you be willing to enter a lice-filled prison chamber that reeked of excrement to bring your brother a blanket or a cup of water?
Paul’s exhortation to the churches of Galatia helps us here.  He wrote, “…but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).  Onesiphorus was a servant who was motivated by his love for Paul and that was why he was willing to travel to Rome.  His love and service provides us with a wonderful example as to what it truly means to serve others through love.
Love motivates servants to go to great lengths to serve others.  Onesiphorus arrived in Rome and then eagerly searched for Paul.  Did he spend great sums of money to travel to Rome?  How much time did he spend searching for Paul?  Hours?  Day?  Weeks?  Was it inconvenient for him to leave his household for a period of time to search for Paul?  It seems that Onesiphorus was simply motivated by his love and concern for his friend. Money, time, and inconveniences were no obstacles to Onesiphorus.  He went to great lengths to refresh and serve his brother.  His service was not a one time event.  He refreshed Paul often.  What a wonderful example!
There are many around us who need to be refreshed.  Are we going to great lengths to serve them?  Are we doing so often?  Are we serving others through love?          Jay Taylor