United in Christ
Lord, may Your Spirit increase my love for You and energize my worship and my service for You each day.
Read ROMANS 16:1-16
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“A great multitude … from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne” (Rev. 7:9).
In the mid-1960s, my husband and I and our two children worked in Africa. We never phoned home but wrote many letters and sent home the slides we took. As far as communications go, we resembled Paul! I wonder, now that it is so easy to talk to anyone anywhere, whether our contacts with friends and family have become more sporadic and brief. In these verses we have a tantalizing glimpse of the Roman Christians Paul knew. Commentators who know first-century history have attempted to work out from their names who these people were and what they were like.
Some of them were wealthy and some were important. Phoebe, who heads the list, seems to be both—a church deacon, who supported a number of people, including Paul, and had the task of delivering the letter to Rome. Priscilla and Aquila had worked with Paul, teaching and ministering, and ran a house church in Rome. Some were Jews and some Greeks; some had names associated with Rome’s lower classes, possibly slaves; some had been Christians longer than Paul—Andronicus and Junia, husband and wife perhaps, were Jews with Greek names. Were they with the apostles at Pentecost? Is Rufus the son of Simon who carried the cross?
Paul often travelled with close friends and coworkers. Sometimes he had disagreements with them and they went their different ways. Some, he felt, had betrayed him, speaking out against him. But obviously he valued people, worked at his friendships, and praised and encouraged his co-workers. When this had been read in all the houses where Christians met in Rome, how did they react? Some must have felt reproved for their criticism of others, and giving each other a holy kiss must have involved reconciliation, an act of forgiving and being forgiven.
This chapter is a call to revise our prayer lists, use our phones and emails, and tell some people that we haven’t forgotten them.
Father, what an immense privilege it is to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ. I belong to a world-wide family of believers. How blessed I am.