Text: Romans 16:1-16
For hearts inclined to God and his children
For lives that give witness to what we love
WE OFTEN FORGET that St. Paul wrote letters, and so his writings are not simply theological treatises but are full of kind words, funny asides, exasperation and longing for his brothers and sisters in the faith. Paul had genuine affection, love and loyalty for those to whom he wrote. Even if his attitude was exemplary, it was not unique: one of the key differences between the Christians and other religious or social groups in the Empire was their affection for one another and for their communities—it was not reserved for any particular social class but was freely given to all. When such love was absent (and there were certainly times that love was absent from Christian communities!), it was seen as a fault and condemned as such by the bishops and elders of that time.
As you read the list of names, be mindful that they are ancestors of yours—family members in Jesus Christ, bound to you and me by the wondrous power of our Lord. Their work, their lives may have been different in the details that how we live today, but their hopes, struggles and purposes would not be strange to us. Let that list of names carry your heart and mind to those you know today—family members in Jesus Christ, whose hopes, struggles and purposes are our own. H. Richard Niehbuhr, in writing about what the Church means about love, said
[love] is rejoicing over the other... it is gratitude, thankfulness for the existence of the beloved; it is wonder over the other as a gift in life... love rejoices in who the beloved is and who the beloved can become... love is commitment of the self to make the other great; it is loyalty, as well, to the other’s cause—to his loyalty. In this it is similar to patriotism, for as there is no patriotism where only the country’s benefits are loved and not the country’s cause (that for the sake of which the nation exists), so there is no love of God or neighbor where God’s cause is not loved…
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks