They’re often ignored. Unseen. Overlooked. Like wallpaper—only they’re real people. A quiet and shy demeanor could be the reason. We may assume that they’re just not interested. Yet when Paul and Luke list at least 100 names as part of Paul’s circle of friends, did you know that most of them are wallpaper people?
Paul’s life is so rich, his teachings so dense, that it’s easy to gloss over the names he put in his greetings. However, it’s the names in his greetings that put “flesh and bones” on his letters. Paul had wallpaper people around him for whom he cared and who cared for him. Let’s look at Colossians 4:7-14.
Although Tychicus and Onesimus delivered the letter and gave a ministry update (Col 4:7-9), most of the greeting is from Paul’s wallpaper friends. They are named in two groups of three: Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus; then Epaphras, Luke, and Demas (Col 4:10-14). OK, so Mark (Barnabas’s cousin) and Dr. Luke are not wallpaper material; but who are the other guys?
Aristarchus was among the crowd in the riot at Ephesus, where he is referred to as a Macedonian and travel companion of Paul (Acts 19:29)—perhaps as a fellow prisoner in Macedonia and on the ship to Italy (Acts 20:4; 27:2).
Another wallpaper guy was “Jesus who is called Justus.” It would be hard to ignore someone with “Jesus” on his name tag, but even so, Paul says that these wallpaper men had been a “comfort” to him. The Greek word here, paregoria, means comfort in its most profound sense. It meant “easing, relieving” someone’s pain (it’s the word people used in medical contexts and gravestones).
Epaphras, another wallpaper guy, was “always struggling” to pray that the Colossian church would “stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col 4:12). “Always struggling” (agonizomai) is the same word used to describe Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, from which we derive the word “to agonize” (cf. Luke 22:44; Col 1:29). Epaphras was one of those hidden prayer warriors.
Then there’s Demas. We know very little about him (cf. Philemon 1:24)—only that Demas’s love for “this present world” eventually caused him to desert Paul (2 Tim 4:10). Paul does not tell us what aspect of this present world Demas loved. Perhaps Paul did not want to embarrass him. But something triggered Demas to walk away.
There’s a lot to love about wallpaper people. The “behind-the-scenes” ones are often the most compassionate. They will suddenly appear “out-of-the-woodwork” to ease someone’s pain. They’re the ones who “out-of-the-blue” send you a card that says, “I’m praying for you.” Yes, some wallpaper people disappear on us, and we don’t know why. But most wallpaper people are always there for us—and we’re grateful for you!