I was laying in bed last night, trying to figure out what to read snuggled up under the covers before I fell asleep. First I thought Tolkien, then I thought I would open up my Greek book and study, but then I heard the Spirit nudge me and say, “Let’s do Romans 16.”
This is one of those chapters I typically gloss over. When I think of Romans, I think of the meat and potatoes being the first 15 chapters, and then there’s the wrapping up part, say hi to so and so in Chapter 16. But this time when I was reading it I was thinking not about what it says, but about all the stories behind the greetings to the various believers. Here’s a couple lines which may read with the edginess of an excerpt from 1 Chronicles…
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.
Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.
Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.
Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. – Romans 16:12-16
But now, imagine what wasn’t said:
- What did Typhena and Tryphosa do to earn commendations from Paul for their hard work? Did their hearts explode in joy at watching their labor put smiles on the lips of others?
- What kind of conversations did Persis and Paul have for him to call her a dear friend? Did they take long walks along the Tiber River at sunset discussing life and God?
- Did Rufus’ mother take care of Paul like her own son while he visited with them? Did she cook for him and make him a guest bed?
- Were Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, and Hermas a group of friends that always loved to hang out? And was Paul one of them?
- What about Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister and Olympas? How did they first meet him?
- They were so close as brothers and sisters in God that they shared a holy kiss as a greeting and ate together, shared life together, enjoyed being together. I wonder what just a day of that looked like in Rome with the brothers and sisters there?
God is upholding these relationships of believers in 1st century Rome as a model for the types of brotherly and sisterly love and relationships he wants in the Bride throughout her 2000+ year history. So can we learn stuff from the “let’s wrap it up” portion of the letters? Oh yeah, absolutely. We can get a glimpse into the relational world that Paul and the apostles enjoyed in the Bride after Jesus went home and the Spirit came into us. Pragmatically, we can take that model and apply it to our lives and relationships with others in the Bride today.
Plus, don’t you get a longing feeling inside you reading Paul’s greetings with all these brothers and sisters in Christ? A longing to have those relationships for yourself? If I am honest with my heart and myself, I know I do. In fact, it’s one of the core reasons I blog and serve at church and join small groups; to just get a taste of what Paul experienced daily. We were created for these kinds of deep relationships, to know and be known by others.
I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this!
PS I totally butchered the bet in my post photo, which looks more like a satellite dish than a letter. I just couldn’t get that darn glowstick to bend the way I wanted it to long enough to snap a pic
PPS that’s a pic of glowsticks I using on 4th of July to spell love out in Hebrew
PPPS it didn’t totally work 😉
PPPPS we’re still pregnant, Sophie isn’t here yet. Prayers for my wife’s comfort would be appreciated!! She’s doing great, but she’s ready to wrap this one up!