In April 2003, Aron Ralston made international news when he cut off his own arm to escape certain death in a hiking accident. In his book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, he recounts some of his thoughts while trapped in Utah’s Bluejohn Canyon: “I go out looking for adventure and risk, so I can feel alive. But to go out by myself, and not tell someone where I’m going—that’s just dumb. If someone knew, if I’d been with someone else, there would probably already be help on the way. Dumb, dumb, dumb.” Ralston, an experienced solo mountaineer, discovered the importance of having others involved in his endeavors.
Followers of Jesus Christ are not rugged individualists. Even when we may feel we are embarking on a solo adventure, we still need others in the body of Christ. In his closing chapter to the book of Romans, the apostle Paul sends greetings to many in the church at Rome along with his expressions of appreciation for their ministry. Some of the names are notable, such as Aquila and Priscilla, the couple with whom Paul stayed during his ministry in Corinth. Most are unknown to us today, although Paul provides occasional details about some of the names.
Some scholars have described Paul as a misogynist who disliked and undervalued women. But an examination of our text today does not support such a charge. For example, a woman named Phoebe is the first to be mentioned in Paul’s list. This would have been highly unusual in Paul’s day to acknowledge a woman so prominently in a letter that would be read publicly. Clearly Phoebe’s work in the church had been tremendously valuable.
Through the rest of the chapter Paul sends greetings to the men and women who have labored with him in service for the Lord. Paul was not a solo act; he recognized the ministry of others and took the time to thank and commend them for it. This final chapter of Romans gives us a personal example of how to live out the calling and teaching contained in this rich book.