In Romans, lots of characters make Jabez-esque appearances of a verse or two, especially in Chapter 16. We are told a little snippet about them, and then they vanish – *poof* – right off of the pages of the text just when we were getting to know them.
In some ways its frustrating to know so little about so many people. In other ways, its encouraging. For me, it demonstrates that Romans wasn’t written by one guy who sat down at his computer and slammed out an email late one night – it is a product of the support and labor of a larger community.
Phoebe, in particular, has grabbed my attention. In one verse, we learn so much about her – yet I still long to hear more of her story. She is a “deacon”? In the port city of Cenchreae? She has provided financial support to Paul and others (read: she is loaded)? And she apparently has the means to travel to Rome, perhaps dropping Paul’s letter off while tending to business of her own? Sounds like quite an impressive person. Even moreso, she impresses me because Paul apparently entrusted her to carry this painstakingly drafted letter, carrying a message of personal importance to Paul, all the way from Corinth to Rome.
Scripture is filled with passing references to people like Phoebe. Their presence reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not limited to a few leaders who sit around deciding how everything is supposed to work. It is richly populated with all sorts of people: hospitable homeowners, dutiful scribes, substitute mothers, and – yes – even the occasional wealthy, but generous female deacon.
What other 1-2 verse characters from Romans (or elsewhere) intrigue you?