In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, Paul describes how our lives as Apprentices of Jesus can change the world.
II Corinthians 3: 2-3; 17-18 (MSG)
“Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it. . . .
I love to get letters in the mail. For most of my life, “getting the mail” has been a high light of my day – whether that meant opening the front door and retrieving mail that slid through a slot, or walking down a long driveway to a big mailbox on a post by the road, or going to the lock box that holds mail for dozens of families in our apartment complex. When I was young and learning the joys of visits from the mailman, the mail box rarely contained supermarket fliers or ads from the new dentist in town or invitations to President’s Day furniture sales. It was either bills or cards and letters – although once I did receive a Roy Rogers gizmo in the mail.
Unfortunately the joys of blessings in the mail are infrequent now. For many people social media takes care of any need people have to communicate. It’s quick and easy and personal (sometimes too personal) – much less complicated than buying and writing a note on a card or actually writing a letter.
So I’m wondering what meaning Paul’s statement about our lives being “a letter that anyone can read” has in 2017. What, actually, is the value of a letter? A letter communicates personal thoughts and feelings, so it is a window into the sender’s soul. It is proof that someone really cares about you. Cards and letters offer congratulations, encouragement, compassion, and a refreshing of memories.
A letter can last forever. I have helped clean out the homes of grandparents, aunts, and parents after their deaths and each time I have found a box or file of letters and cards that have been saved – sometimes for decades. Reading these letters from the past has been a great joy. I have a fat folder myself that I look through once in a while. Perhaps whoever cleans out that closet will take time to look through those letters and learn more about my life.
So when Paul says that my life is a letter that anyone can read, I take that seriously. You and I are living letters, written by Jesus and carved into us by the Holy Spirit. And we publish that letter. (Of course, a “letter” from God that is ignored or torn up and thrown away is also “published.”) It behooves us to think about what people learn from the letters we live.
♥ At the end of each day, think of the “letter” you have lived. What did your letter communicate? Joy, anger, spitefulness, cheerfulness, politeness, rudeness, sorrow, healing? It would be a great idea for couples or family members to regularly ask each other, “What did the letter I wrote to you today tell you?”
♥ Paul understood the power of letters to bring messages of truth, reconciliation, love, and reprimand to the churches he had founded but could not often visit. Think about what you would write to the church you belong to. (You may even want to send it.)
♥ Write a real letter or send a card with a personal note to someone you know and love. And then do the same thing for someone you don’t know well. Try to put some of yourself in that letter. I correspond regularly with the four teenagers I sponsor through Compassion International; I know from their responses that my letters give them hope and help them understand the life of a Christ-follower. Is there someone who would benefit by your sharing what the Holy Spirit has carved into your life?