November 5, 2012

Gospel Letters

When I first set out in Christian ministry, I never intended to be a writer. I find it far too easy to run my mouth to have ever dreamed of making much use of my pen! So I never thought I’d maintain a blog. Never imagined I’d ever write a sermon out in full manuscript form. Certainly never believed I’d publish a book or even a tract. In fact, I can remember driving down the highway, during our engagement, telling Tobey to stop me cold if I ever got the hair-brained idea to write a Christian book! She obviously did not obey! And, over time, I have found that the pen (or keyboard) can be a mighty tool in God’s hand.

Specifically, this week, I am reminded of what a blessing hand-written letters can be. 

Very few of us receive them anymore, do we? Almost everything is in typeface these days, even when it does come via snail mail. So, when someone has taken the time to write something by hand, it comes into our mailbox as a kind of quaint surprise … and we tend to be much more eager to read such surprises! And that gets me thinking about our friends, and family, and co-workers who need to hear the gospel. Hopefully we look for opportunities to give verbal witness. Surely it is also imperative that our behavior shines forth a living testimony, too. But I wonder if you’ve ever thought to take up your pen and share the news about Jesus in the form of a letter. I think it can be one of our greatest gospel outlets – the old-fashioned, hand-written letter!

For one thing, conveying the gospel by means of letters is thoroughly biblical (see Romans-Jude in the New Testament!). Further, as I already mentioned, your friend or co-worker will be much more likely to take the time to read your letter if you have taken the time to write it out in long-hand. Moreover, some of us tend to be able to put our thoughts together a little more clearly (and perhaps calmly) on paper … making for a more coherent witness. Also, letters can be read and re-read … so that the gospel has opportunity to sink in over and over again. And finally, a hand-written letter communicates seriousness, care, and even love. Isn’t that so? I dare say that words written out with pen and ink (and on a nice sheet of paper!) carry twice as much weight as the very same words printed on copy paper in Times New Roman font. The effect is probably quadrupled in comparison to electronic communication! There is just something about your own unique hand-writing (poor as your penmanship may be!) that says to the recipient of your letter: ‘I really care about you.’

So try it out, this letter-writing thing. Is there someone with whom you’ve been wanting to share Jesus, but have been unable? Perhaps a thoughtful, peaceful letter (with an invitation to speak further) is the solution. Or maybe there is a list of people who are already expecting to receive some sort of hand-written communication from you this Christmas. Why not replace that Christmas card with a little longer letter, explaining why you so love the baby in the manger? Think also about prisoners, folks in the retirement home, soldiers on deployment, and students away at school – all of whom would love a thoughtful letter from someone who obviously cares. How open they might be if such a kind, personal communication brought with it a reminder of Jesus and His love?

Let us continue to speak the gospel, to be sure. And let us never fail to adorn the gospel with our lives. But let us also ask the Lord if He might help us, like Paul, to write the gospel, too.

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