First impressions don’t tell you everything about a person…but they can say a lot! As Paul winds down his letter to the Roman church, it might surprise you how much we can learn from the way he sends greetings to his readers. If you’ve ever wondered how the family of God is supposed to function, or why it doesn’t always function the way it seems like it should, don’t miss this Sunday’s message! We’ll learn together what it truly means to love one another as family.
1. Receive people in a manner worthy of saints.
- In the first verses of the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he starts off with a series of greetings to believers he knew within their church. Before he lists any other names, he asks them to receive Phoebe, very likely the woman who delivered Paul’s letter to the Romans.
- Specifically, he instructed the church to receive her in “a manner worthy of saints.” A “saint” is someone who is set apart and holy – in other words, a saint is anyone who is in Christ. Paul is asking the Roman church to receive Phoebe in the way worthy of her identity in Christ, a woman chosen and set apart by the Lord. But really, Paul is saying all believers (because all are saints) are worthy of that treatment. And not just believers – all people – are worthy of that treatment. The only requirement for someone to be a saint is that they would put their faith and trust in Jesus, and because anyone can do that at any time, we ought to treat everyone with the same degree of honor and respect. It’s very possible our hospitality might be a part of how God is drawing someone to himself.
- Part of treating people in a manner worthy of saints is to initiate with them. That’s what God does for us – we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Even if they aren’t demonstrating love to us, we can take the first step to love them. When we initiate with people, we love them in the way God loved us, instead of treating them like they’re an inconvenience.
When you consider your relationships with people who don’t follow Jesus, how is God inviting you to treat those people differently? In your relationships with believers, how is God inviting you to treat those people differently?
2. The family of God is amazing.
- In this section of verses, there’s an impressive list of names of people Paul wants to send greetings to. Some of them are mentioned elsewhere in scripture, and some of them are not, so we don’t know who all of them are. What we do know is each of them is significant in some way to Paul.
- We learn two important things from these verses: first, every person has a story. We all have different backgrounds, and God has worked in our lives in unique and specific ways. Second, God wants us to live our lives in a way that makes us known in the family of God. People will know who we are because we are a fully engaged member of the family of God.
Describe a time recently where you treated another believer as less than your own family. How can you change your perspective so that you treat the church as your own family?
3. Pucker up.
- This verse probably strikes most of us in a funny way, given that kisses mostly carry a romantic connotation in a western context. However, like much of Europe and the Middle East today, people in Paul’s day greeted one another often with a kiss on the cheek.
- When Paul instructs his readers to greet one another with a “holy” kiss, he is speaking of our need to be warm with one another within the body of Christ. In a society that’s lost much of its sensitivity for decency and kindness, Paul is instructing us within the church to live differently, to treat each other well.
We all have unique personalities God has given us. In your unique expression, what does it look like to show warmth and holy affection to your brothers and sisters in Christ? How are you doing at receiving others with affection?
Optional Follow-up Questions:
- What makes you say that?
- How do you feel about that?
- How would you explain your answer to a non-Christian friend or neighbor?
- Why did God design it to work that way? Why not just do (whatever else) instead?
- What would you say to someone who disagrees with that?
- Why do we really have to do it like that? Why can’t we just go (some other route) instead?