So one Sunday just before worship started, this church member named Barb came up to me and stopped me. And she joyfully said, “Christopher! I was reading my Bible last night. While I was reading, I came across this verse and I thought of you…You’re our letter!!” I thanked her and then looked at the little green sticky note which she had put in my hand. The words, “2 Corinthians 3:3 Christopher” were written on it. I still have it.
It was meaningful then as it is still today. It was great to hear that a church member was reading the Bible on her own. And of course it was very sweet that she thought of me. I held onto that sticky note and looked at it often during very trying times.
“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3, NIV).” Now you should know that the “you” is plural. So while it was so nice of Barb to apply it to me, Paul in writing to the Corinthian Christians was calling all of them “letters.” And it’s no different today. We all can be sent and addressed to others to show and demonstrate something about God.
But here’s my take on this. Not sure I am worthy of this…it’s quite an endorsement. But it does remind me of a pure and true desire on my part to be…proof.
We live in a time and a world where everyone wants proof. Proof that God exists, that God is good, that He cares and is involved. We have to prove ourselves at our jobs. We feel like to prove ourselves to spouses, family members and friends. We feel like we have to constantly prove that we are good enough and worthy.
Maybe it’s because we are so visual; or maybe it’s because of the influence of being so litigious. Perhaps it’s because we just don’t trust systems and people.
We have to see it to believe it…
And of course faith is, well, the opposite in many ways. We have to believe it in order to see it.
And of course we know that faith doesn’t come easy. Clearly, God gave us the Bible so that we could know Him more.
Even more to the point, God gave us His Son so that as the quote goes, “God’s love would be more (or most) visible through Him.”
With Jesus presently in Heaven, there have to be other ways to show, to demonstrate, to prove that He and all that He is, is real.
I have been thinking lately about what I want to accomplish in terms of ministry. There are many roles to play – shepherd, pastor, teacher, evangelist, comforter, and others. But I have been thinking lately that perhaps through those roles and just as a human being, I want to be…proof. It’s like Paul said, “…I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:19-20).”
I want my life, all of it, to point to not only God’s existence but His grace, love, and power. Just like with any kind of proof or evidence, it has to be visible, it has to be authentic, it has to be tested and found consistent.
And believe me, I am unable to do this on my own; it’s not even my idea really.
But maybe for believers, seekers and doubters alike, maybe by the way I serve, by the way I love, by the way I forgive, by the way I reach out, by the way I seek justice, by the way I pray, by the way I believe, by the way I hope and see possibility, by the way I lead, by the way I endure trials, by the way I rejoice and praise God, by the way I want to please God more than anything else, by the way I am a spouse, father, son, brother and friend and many other ways, maybe through all of it – someone might come to believe or deepen their belief – to believe that there is a God, and that He is holy and wonderful and forgiving and redeeming and fully engaged for good in our lives.
What if people said of you and me, “I know what it is to be loved by God because of the way you loved me?” That’s the kind of goal or achievement I am seeking after. That my life, my loving, my faith – all pointed to God that clearly. And think of how transforming it would be within churches and beyond them into communities!
When people look at our lives, if we are doing this faithfully, the only conclusion they can come to is, “Only Christ could be the author of that kind of life.”
So as letters of God’s – there really is only one true and faithful response – “Here am I; send me.”
Here we are Lord; write us with your Spirit, address us to other lonely, broken, despairing human hearts and…send us.
Rev. Christopher B. Wolf
Christopher B. Wolf is pastor of First Reformed Church of Saddle Brook, New Jersey. He is the author of Giving Faith a Second Chance: Restarts, Mulligans and Do-Overs (2007) and the forthcoming, With You: Every Step of the Way (2011).
“It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.” N.T. Wright