"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:15-16, NIV
In the age of email, letter writing for many has become a thing of the past, and what a loss that is. Several years ago, I read the biography of John Adams, written by David McCullough. The research for this book was based primarily upon letters written between John and his wife, Abigail, as well as others with whom John Adams corresponded. These letters gave great insight into the lives of some important historical figures.
Around the same time, PBS ran a special on T.V. highlighting some very special letters written by military men and women while stationed overseas during World War II. I remember being moved by the quality of the sentiments expressed in the correspondences.
I have a book on my shelf that is a compilation of letters written by President Ronald Reagan during his years in the White House. I am amazed by the mastery of Reagan’s pen, a man who has often been characterized as an intellectual lightweight who surrounded himself with a powerful team that directed him in presidential policy. One letter that was recently discovered was a note that President Reagan wrote to his atheist father-in-law who was dying. He pleaded with Loyal Davis to put his faith in Christ. A powerful letter!
This all got me thinking about how important letters are. E-mail is a wonderful tool for quick communication of information, but it is not very helpful when it comes to laying out a meaningful, enduring legacy. The telephone enables us to speak instantly with others but does not allow us much time to process thoughts and feelings in the way that writing does.
What can be learned from the insightful letters of others (as well as our own) is significant. And so it is with the letters we find in the Bible. How much we learn of those who authored the epistles. The Apostle John, author of the gospel of John,
wrote three letters, as well as the book of Revelation. John wrote of a God who “so loved the world that he sent his one and only son…” (Jn. 3:16). In that same gospel, he included Jesus’ command to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn. 13:35). Years later, John made “love” the theme of his first letter. In the fourth chapter of first John, the word love appears 26 times. As you read his letters, it is very obvious that John lived his life in obedience to the Lord’s command that he received as a young man.
When it comes to the Apostle Paul, he is often characterized as a hard, cold, judgmental leader of the early Christian church. Certainly it is true that Paul lays out clear and strong teachings in his letters that, for some, are hard to accept (not unlike Jesus—read John 6:60-65). ... However, as you read his letters, you begin to see a man who loves the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul and strength and one who loves others even as himself. In the concluding remarks contained in some of his letters (like the ones found in the sixteenth chapter of the letter to the Romans), you see a man who loves his friends deeply. The characterization of Paul as an unsympathetic tyrant melts away as you immerse yourself in his writings.
Finally, I cite Peter’s letters - writings of a man who had denied the Lord at one time. After years of faithful service to Jesus, Peter’s letters reveal his undying love for both His Master and for the Bride of Christ, the Church. The once impetuous and proud Peter who confidently said to Jesus, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you"(Mt 26:35), would write these words later in life, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
If you are not using Bible reading plan this year, let me suggest immersing yourselves in the letters found in the New Testament. I have put out a couple of reading plans for 2020 that you can find in the narthex. If you were to read just the New Testament portions in the daily reading plans, it would require only a few minutes of reading each day accompanied perhaps by time in prayer and journaling. This practice will prove the age-old truth: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” (Heb. 4:12 - For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart).
In God’s Grace,