“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” 2 Timothy 1:16
The name Onesiphorus isn’t one that many of us are familiar with in our bible studies. It is mentioned only twice, both times in the book of 2 Timothy. Little is known about the man Onesiphorus, other than he was a big help and a blessing to the apostle Paul.
Onesiphorus went out of his way to find and visit Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. A visit to someone in jail might not sound like a big deal, but consider the politics of Rome at the time. It was very dangerous to be called a Christian then. Yet Onesiphorus was steadfast in his devotion to Paul. Not all of Paul’s friends were so loyal. Phygelus and Hermogenes abandoned him.
Onesiphorus did more than simply comfort Paul in hard times. He helped his brain function better. Dr. Mark Brady, a neuroscience educator, reports that our brains are hardwired to filter the behavior of people around us with a question. That question, called the Big Brain Question, is, “Are you there for me?” meaning, am I respected, cared for, heard, seen, and understood. When our brains get a “yes” answer, they develop and organize optimally. Too many “no” answers and our brains don’t fare so well, which means we don’t fare so well. Onesiphorus answered Paul’s Big Brain Question with a “Yes!”
When we answer people’s Big Brain Question with a “yes!” good things happen, for them and for us. When we practice being there for others, respecting them, hearing them, seeing them, understanding them, we live the very foundation of God’s commandment to us to love one another.
I doubt Onesiphorus knew anything about interpersonal neurobiology. He was simply acting out of care and compassion for a friend. We don’t have to understand how the brain works either, as long as we understand how the heart works: when we show love and kindness to others, they are blessed and so are we. We don’t have to know about all of the good things that take place in our brains when we behave like Onesiphorus. We feel the good in our bodies, hearts, minds and souls.
F.R.O.G. Practice: Today, be aware that the brains of people you come into contact with today are “asking” the Big Brain Question, “Are you there for me?” If you communicate and behave in a way that let’s them know that you are indeed there for them, your brain and their brain, will be all the better for it. Your soul will be all the better for it, too.