In Romans 16:13, Paul gives a shout-out to Rufus and his mother. He calls Rufus “chosen in the Lord” and identifies Rufus’ mother as a woman “who has been a mother to me, too.” The Bible gives scarce specifics about Paul’s family. We know that his father was a Pharisee. In Acts 23:6, Paul says, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.” We also know that he had a sister who raised her son to be brave. No mention is made of Paul’s mother, so we can only speculate about who she was. Perhaps she died while Paul was young and he grew up without knowing his mother. Or perhaps she was a devout Jew who was proud of the Saul version of her son as he persecuted Christians, but was displeased when he became a Christian and changed his name to Paul.
This latter speculation is quite possible. Jesus often warned His twelve disciples (of which Paul was not one), that they risked losing everything – their lives, their friends, and even the affection of their families – by choosing to follow Him. When Paul gave his heart to Jesus the Christ, Paul’s mother may have disowned him, and Rufus’ mother may have taken him in and loved him as she did her own son.
Whether Paul grew up without a mother or whether he and his mother just weren’t on good terms, it is clear that he found a maternal figure in Rufus’ mother, from whom we can learn to care for others.
1. Rufus’ mother did not only take care of her own. It’s easy for us to take care of ourselves and others we love, such as family members and close friends. But it takes more of an effort for us to look beyond our people and step outside of our circles to love and care for others who are not directly related to us.
During a time when Christians were being persecuted all over the place, it would have been easier and certainly safer for Rufus’ mother to huddle down with her folks and make sure that only they were taken care of. She didn’t have to open her heart and her home to an outsider. But because of the love of Christ inside of her, she was compelled to not only take care of her own, but also others. It is likely that Rufus’ mother fixed Paul’s favorite meal when he was in town or had a room prepared for him when he came to visit. When Paul was lashed, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked, it is likely that he turned to Rufus’ mother for encouragement and comfort. When he was tired, hurt, and near giving up, it is likely that Rufus’ mother reminded him that his labor in the Lord was not in vain.
We think of Paul as a great spiritual leader, but there were times when Paul was weak and needed someone to look up to and confide in, as well. Carl Hagensick writes, “Though we look up to and respect these strong leaders in the faith, we sometimes fail to realize that they also need spiritual parents. The role of leadership is one of the loneliest in the world. Frequently there is the need to pour out one’s soul to a listening ear, to seek counsel in the perplexing problems that face an active minister in the gospel. In the mother of Rufus Paul had found just such a confidante.”
Paul did not accomplish all he accomplished on his own. Of course, God helped him. But he also had the help of countless women and men who were selfless and not only looked out for their interests, but also his.
Maya Angelou said, “Nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone.” In other words, we need God, and we need each other. Mothers and fathers cannot only be concerned about the welfare of their children. They must also be concerned about the welfare of children who only have one parent or no parents at all. Sisters and brothers cannot only be concerned about the welfare of one another. They must also be concerned about those who do not have siblings. Whites cannot only be concerned about whites. They must also be concerned about those of other colors who are outside of their race, and vice versa.
If we do not rise and succeed together, we will fall and fail together.
As females, we have natural “mothering” instincts in us. Don’t be afraid to use those instincts and become a spiritual mother to those who may not have a mother or to those who may not be close to their biological mother. Don’t hesitate to step in and fill a void in the life of someone who needs to be shown love, care, and kindness. It may make all the difference in the world for them. Be concerned about the welfare of those who are not your own.