This morning’s epistle reading was Romans 16:1-16. I have to admit that my reaction to this passage surprised me. I discovered a huge smile spreading across my face as I read through Paul’s personal greetings to various individuals and families in the Roman Church.
The Epistle to the Romans is viewed as Paul’s theological masterpiece. NT Wright states in his commentary on Romans that while many will disagree on how to approach and interpret Romans, “What nobody doubts is that we are here dealing with a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge while offering a breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.”
Yet, here at the end of Paul’s theological magnum opus, we find a small window into the genuine street-level embodiment of his theology — love. He greets people by name. He calls a few “beloved.” He proclaims with exuberance those who have risked much and served well. These are his genuine friends. These are loved ones for whom he prays. These dear ones of whom he thinks frequently.
Who knows how all of their lives first intersected. Who knows who introduced one person to another? Who knows who invited one person to dinner to meet another? And Paul is part of this intricate web of friendships. Yes, he’s an apostle. Yes, he’s a recognized leader. But most importantly, he’s their friend and co-worker in Christ. They have rejoiced together, cried together, prayed together, learned together, shared their lives together. Somehow in his wisdom, God brought all of them together into a loving and prayerful community of his Good News for the life of the world.
And that made me smile this morning.
Then it made me think about everyone whom God has brought into my life over the years.
And now I can’t stop smiling.