“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 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…
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life… Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners… Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys… Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well… Greet one another with a holy kiss…
“Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive… I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
“Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you… I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.” Romans 16:1-9,12-13,16-23
The personal greetings Paul dictated from a Roman prison highlight a varied and special team of comrades in faith who stand and work together in the fray of the world. Servants, workers, the bold and beloved, mentors, care-givers, stenographers, hosts, teachers, and number-crunchers- all contributed significantly to a healthy church. Their passionate bent to serve the Lord, not themselves, unified them in holy affection.
Living in the world, we will always have opposition, individuals and movements that niggle into our brains with dissension, disrupt harmony in fellowship, and perpetuate division in relationships and churches. Alone, we are vulnerable to the enticements of the flesh, the whispers of ill-will and falsehood, the allure of stroked pride and gossip. But as the church, we can be firmly planted in truth, supported by communal prayer, and sharpened by the wisdom and deep faith of others. Together, we can lock arms, sharpen each other, and sing in unison to dispel the smooth talk and flattery of those who would divide us. (Psalm 34:3; Proverbs 27:17; Ephesians 2:19-22)
When was the last time I voiced appreciation to another who has served well? Written a letter to or prayed for, by name, a fellow worker? How willing am I to help in whatever way is needed? How am I expressing affection for the Lord’s children, even the prickly ones? How hard do I work? To what older, wiser one do I gratefully listen, and learn, and in whom am I gladly investing my time and experience? Do I regularly greet my spiritual siblings with love, and warmly welcome them into conversation, fellowship, my confidence?
Lord, may I do my gracious part in blessing the church amidst the culture’s fray, building up and loving Your people with the affection and unity of Christ.