Imagine a useless person, what image comes to mind?
Tonight as we closed our missionary training time we explored one of the great word plays in the Bible. In the letter of Philemon, Paul talks about a man named Onesimus who has gone from being useless to useful (see Phil 1:11).
The nuances of this scripture are lost in English.
First, the very name Onesimus literally means useless.
Second, there is a play on the words useless and useful. In Greek, the word useless is achrēstos, the word for useful is euchrēstos. Therefore, the person without Christ is useless, the person with Christ is useful.
This caused me to reflect on our judgment of who we deem useless.
In the times of greatest transition in my life, God has powerfully used people who many might label useless.
God called me in to ministry through a man crippled by cerebral palsy.
My journey in to missionary service came through working with people experiencing homelessness.
We could not do any of the programs at Church and Community Development for All People without the volunteer participation of the immediate community, most of whom live in poverty.
From Paul’s perspective, the difference between the useful and useless is not based on money, power, influence, appearance, or status, but solely because of the presence of Christ.
Many times the person we might deem as most useless is the one we see in the mirror. It is easy to see our own limitations and to think our faults disempower us from the overwhelming needs of the world. But this scripture reminds us that usefulness isn’t about our limitations, it is about the grace of God working within us. All things are possible, because of God who dwells within us.
The most useless person you can image might be the very one who God uses to change your world. After all, what good can come from Nazareth?