I love the way Paul ends his letter to the Romans. Most of the entire last chapter is devoted to him giving shout outs to all the people he loves and appreciates in the Roman church. Many of these on his list are women who have helped him. First there’s Phebe. She is called a servant of the church at Cenchrea, and he is telling the Roman church to receive her and help her out in anything that she needs because she has been a succourer of many, including Paul. From what I can tell, a succourer is a person who hurries to give help. Phebe was one of those women who didn’t need to be asked. She hurried to help many, including Paul. Hurrying to give help. Now that’s worth imitating.
Next is Priscilla, who is mentioned with her worthy husband Aquila. The first thing I notice is that they are always mentioned as a team. The two of them are to be greeted especially, because they have been Paul’s helpers, risking their own lives for his sake. I love it that Paul has not forgotten what they have done for him in the past. He is loyal to them because of their loyal sacrifice on his behalf. Paul does not have a short memory. That’s worth imitating.
Then (skipping over a few) next is Mary. Dear Mary. She bestowed much labor on Paul and his entourage (and only the Lord knows what that entailed). Her helping was bestowed, not required. She freely gave, and she gave a whole lot. Much labor. That’s worth imitating too. I delight in knowing that Paul knew what it cost her. I am imagining meals, dishes, providing bedding, running errands, organizing the conferences, and printing up the brochures. Seeing that Paul had all that he needed to do all that needed to be done. Paul singles her out for a greeting. Tell Mary I said, “Hi.” And he doesn’t forget to mention her service to him. That must have made her feel very loved indeed.
Next Paul greets many other helpers. He has not forgotten any. He calls Urbane “our helper in Christ” and he mentions Amplias, Stachys, and Persis as “beloved.” He salutes many, sending greetings to whole households and his kinsmen. He remembers Rufus and “his mother and mine.” I wonder if Rufus’ mother was the kind of woman that Paul could look on as his own. (If so, what a kind compliment that would be!)
Paul was the kind of man who saw what the women were doing on his behalf. He made a special point of remembering. This tells me that they were the kind of women who were not easily forgotten. They served, they bestowed, they “laid down their own necks” on Paul’s behalf. And that is worth imitating! Women have the means to do much for the kingdom of God. The helping role is a significant role. Paul knew this, blessed God for it, and blessed God for each one of them by name.