Have you ever felt invisible? Or maybe there has been a time when your hard work, act of kindness or good deeds went completely unnoticed or unappreciated. From motherhood to the workplace, the day to day of living a life that is set apart from the way of the world is difficult and thankless.
I am always surprised by passages like this one in Romans 16 because just when you think the little people go unnoticed, names pop up that you have never heard before. At different points in my life I have definitely felt like a “no name” and that all my efforts are in vain. To make a name for yourself, you typically have to be over the top, smarty pants, super successful, rich or loud OR on the other end of the spectrum; ignorant, disruptive, or violent. Often, there is little room for the middle man if you want to be noticed.
But here in Romans 16, Paul recognizes 25 “no names” that never had their own book of the bible but made a mark in the faithful, day to day service to their Master. Here they are called patrons, fellow workers in Christ Jesus, fellow prisoners, chosen. Some “risked their necks” for Paul’s life and all of them worked hard for their fellow believers. Paul not only mentions these people by name but asks that the Romans would treat them in a way worthy of the saints and to accept them. These people’s faithful service in the day to day grind paid off.
When I read through the list of names and descriptions Paul gives, one word comes to mind; consistency. These believers didn’t just do one random act of kindness and then move on. They lived lives of service to the Lord. Some of them had actually walked with Jesus and other’s converted after he had already risen but they remained faithful to the Lord’s service. I know that deeds to not gain my entrance ticket to heaven but somewhere my name is written- I am not a no name any longer.
Before Paul closes out his letter to the Romans he gives a final word of warning to these people who have remained consistently faithful over the years.
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites,[f] and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Romans 16 17-20
Some things never change. That warning from Paul over 2,000 years ago is still true today. His warning is a reminder that if we are not careful our once faithful hearts can quickly be lead astray. As Romans 16:25a, 27 says, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”