August 23, 2010

Where we got Julia's Name

By means of these weekly articles (and at our 9am prayer meeting), we have spent the last eight months together in the book of Romans. And, alas, this week we come to the end of those journeys. I have tried, week by week – and consecutively through the book’s 16 chapters – to scribble down a few devotional thoughts that might be helpful to you. I hope, in some small way, they have been.

And today, in Paul’s final chapter, we are faced with a long list of names – many of which are difficult to pronounce, and most of which we have never heard before, and never will again (this side of heaven). Names like Phoebe, and Andronicus, and Narcissus. In this chapter, Paul mentions all sorts of people who, along the pathway of his ministry, “risked their own necks” for the gospel (v.4); who were “workers in the Lord” (v.12); who were “choice men in the Lord” (v.13), and so on. Persis, Rufus, Herodian, Junias, and so on. Here we have all sorts of faceless men and women (faceless to us, that is … but not to Paul; and not to God!); here we have several handfuls of people largely forgotten by history … but who were so vital in Paul’s great accomplishment of preaching the gospel, practically, throughout the known world!

One of the names in the list (as you will see in verse 15) is “Julia”. Nothing is said about her except that she was paired up, in Paul’s list, with a man named “Philologus”. Probably they were husband and wife. Maybe she called him “Gus” for short! We don’t know for sure. And the reason we don’t know for sure is because, like most of these other characters, we never see them stepping onto the stage of history again. History, from a merely human perspective, records these two – and nearly all their compatriots in Romans 16 – as merely bit characters. And yet to Paul, people like Julia meant everything. And to God, they are well-known and loved!

So, as we prepared, a little over seven years ago, to see our first child come into the world, I was perusing this list one morning – not looking for baby names, but simply reading the book of Romans. And it occurred to me that this is what I hoped our children might be like – like the people in Romans 16: godly, hard workers in the Lord … advancing the gospel whether anyone ever remembered their names or not. And, of all the names we might have selected from Romans 16, Julia stood out (it just has a little better ring to it, I think you’ll agree, than does “Tryphosa”!). So we went with it … and continue to pray that, by God’s grace, our little girl will become more and more like her Roman namesake.

But I don’t share that story with you simply because I am a proud papa, over eager to gush about my children or talk about myself. I share the story with you because it seems to me that Julia, Philologus, Nereus, and the rest ought to serve as role models for us all.

Let’s be honest. There are some names that will be remembered throughout all church history – Spurgeon, Luther, Calvin, Elliot, Augustine, and so on. But none of our names will be on that list. A hundred years from now, if someone should run across a yellowing copy of our church roster, our names will appear just as unfamiliar (and some of them hard to pronounce!) as those in Romans 16. No one (on this earth) will remember who we were. But that’s not the point of what we’re doing, is it? It wasn’t the point for Julia and the others. They just wanted to serve the Lord; to spread the gospel; to serve those who were on the front lines; to please the Lord … even if always behind the scenes. And, evidently they did so … though we may never know exactly how.

Let’s be like them. Let’s give our everything for the fame of a far more memorable and significant name – Jesus! Our names may never be written in the annals. But if they are in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that is enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

O Kurt, I cannot resist this one...Julia is indeed a nice name (and a precious little girl) but have you not met my granddaughter...PHOEBE!!? Aw, come 'on, it's not hard to pronounce and those of us who know and love her will never forget her. In all seriousness, I do humbly pray God will make her a servant of the church, and a helper in the gospel, as Phoebe of old. (Also, one of our all-time favorite characters from L.M.Alcott's Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom was named Phoebe.) Back to Romans 16..Katie had tiny, stuffed rag dolls named Tryphena and Tryphosa--suggested by her daddy--whom we lovingly considered 'twins'. I always wanted to meet someone named Sosipater.
Thanks for bringing this list of saints to our minds. How I would love to be remembered as they are. (Mike used to talk about a preacher named Rufus) Kathy