Paul closes his letter to the Romans with a list of greetings. In our Bible study with my brothers of Refuge Church a few weeks ago, we looked at this passage and fought to mine some usefulness out of it. What do you make of a list of names, most of which we know very little about outside of Paul's brief comments?
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. (Romans 16:1-16)
On the surface, a list like this is tedious at best and a skip-over at worst. But if we will take the time to actually read it, we may find there is more to it. As we thought this passage over, one friend pointed out what Paul said about each person. In Romans 12:10 Paul instructs the church to "outdo one another in showing honor." In Romans 15:7, he tells the church to "Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you." Here in Romans 16, Paul is practicing what he preached. He is honoring and welcoming in the most Christian way.
Think of how these folks must have felt as Phoebe read the letter to them. Mary's heart was warmed as Paul recognized her hard work. Rufus' mother felt useful and loved upon hearing her mothering was accepted and appreciated.
If you were to make a list of the people in your church, what would you say about each one? Why not say it to them now? They probably don’t see how they’re used by God in your life. They probably can’t understand how their messed up life adds value to the kingdom of God. Why not break that narrative with some gospel encouragement? Why not do it today?