Sunday, 22 April 2018

C Columns

Saint or Sheep thief? Always remember that people can change

By Vincent Kituku

“Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever — no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother ... as a brother in the Lord.” — Philemon 1:15­16 (NIV)

There is a story of a youth who used to steal sheep. Elders of his village caught him and branded his forehead ST for Sheep Thief, so that people could recognize him and protect their flocks.

Because of the hatred he experienced when people saw his forehead, he moved to another town where he was unknown. He joined a community church and with time, became the person to go to when one needed help. The pastor always used this man as the best example when he was teaching about the spiritual implications of serving others.

That church had an elderly widow who was well served by this man with ST branded on his forehead. A young couple moved to that town, joined that church and was helped by this man with all their financial needs. This couple happened to chat after the Sunday morning service with the widow.

They asked her about the man who had helped them so much and why he had ST on his forehead. She explained to them how he had helped her too and that she never even bothered to ask him about his ST; all she knew was that ST stood for saint.

This story fits Paul’s letter to Philemon. It presents an effective way of how Christians should deal with a person who has wronged them in the past, especially when that person has turned from his or her wicked lifestyle.

The letter is devoted to pleading with Philemon to accept Onesimus. Onesimus had offended Philemon and had run to another city, where he had the opportunity to learn from Paul. Onesimus grew spiritually and Paul was pleased.

Paul wanted Philemon to give Onesimus a second chance, treat him not as the offender of the past or as a servant, but as a brother in Christ. Paul must have been so pleased with the promising spiritual growth of Onesimus that he (Paul) was willing to tell Philemon to receive Onesimus as if Philemon were receiving Paul himself.

Further, Paul promised to pay Philemon anything he was owed by Onesimus.

As I read this book of Philemon, I was challenged in a number of ways.

1. How am I willing to accept those who have wronged me in the past?

2. How can I have the courage to plead for those who have wronged others in past, but are now serving Christ?

3. Do I spend time and resources developing others spiritually to a point where I am comfortable to speak about their changed life?

4. How can I continue to learn and trust God in His ability to turn a sheep thief into a saint?

5. Does my attitude and service to others reflect my changed life since acceptingGod?

Paul himself had a past that required Christ to plead for him. Ananias, a disciple in Damascus, was not ready to help Paul recover his sight (Acts 9:1­18). Ananias had a vision from the Lord asking him to go where Paul was. Ananias resisted because he knew what Paul had done to Christians.

Jesus told Ananias that Paul was a chosen vessel, who would preach His word to gentiles, kings and the children of Israel.

Let us learn to receive and treat people based on their changed lives. They are chosen vessels with a chosen purpose they need to accomplish for the Kingdom of God. Let’s not forget how our lives were before we became chosen vessels.

Dr. Vincent Muli Kituku, award­-winning international speaker and author, is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School in Kenya. He may be reached at 208­-376-­8724 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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