This is the article I wrote for Catawba UMC's newsletter for the month of October:
During the summer between my Junior and Senior year at UNC-Wilmington I served as a youth intern under the full time youth pastor at a large Presbyterian church in Wilmington. At the end of the internship he wrote a general letter of recommendation for me knowing that I would be applying for ministry positions after I graduated. That letter of recommendation was so good that in two different interviews one of the interviewers mentioned the letter and how highly I came recommended in it. I’m sure that letter helped me land an internship as a youth pastor at another church while I was Seminary.
Did you know that letters of recommendation existed in the New Testament? Paul lived in a society that placed a similar value on personal achievements and introductory letters as employers do today. Itinerant speakers in particular were expected to carry letters of reference with them as they travelled from place to place. In his letters Paul often recommended his pastoral colleagues in ministry to the churches he had planted (Rom 16:1-2; 1 Cor 4:17; 2 Cor 8:16-24; Phil 2:19-30). Paul, however, never carried letters of recommendation for himself.
In chapter 3 of 2nd Corinthians Paul asks a few rhetorical questions about the validity of his ministry and uses the metaphor of a letter of recommendation to make his point. Instead of an actual letter about his credentials, He says that “you” (meaning the Corinthian Christians) are our letter. Then in verse three he writes: 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.
For Paul, the work of Spirit of the living God in the lives of the Corinthian Christians was all the recommendation required for his ministry to be valid. It was not about what was actually written or not written, it was about the work of the Spirit. It wasn’t about ink on tablets, it was about the Spirit’s work within people’s hearts and how that manifested itself among the people of Corinth. It was not about who was worthy or who was recommended, it was about people responding to the power of the Spirit. For Paul, the greatest letter of recommendation for his ministry was in how the people responded to the Spirit at work among them.
What kind of letter are you writing with your life? Is your life a “letter of recommendation for Christ” or is it discrediting His name? Are you a living witness to the God of love and grace and forgiveness when you are among your peers? What kind of letter is your life writing to the people who are reading it? What kind of letter are you writing to your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your coworkers and your friends by the decisions you make? Is it a letter recommending a real relationship with Christ as the best possible way to live life?
There are too many Christians who give Christ a bad name…if you are a Christian your job is to give Christ an exceptional recommendation with the way you live your life.