“I commend to you our sister Phoebe …” (v1). Paul’s greetings display his great affection and respect for his diverse co-workers in ministry. Starting with Phoebe the deaconess (servant is normally translated “deacon”) and house church patron, Paul lists men and women who have worked hard, risked their lives, taught others, been in prison with him, and are simply “beloved in the Lord” (v8). Paul’s vision of ministry and leadership is not like the military but rather like a band of devoted friends – Jew and Gentile, men and women - serving the same Master.
“Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (v6). Rather than obligation, we are called to “work hard” for our brothers and sisters with great love.