A Living Letter from God

“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11)

Somewhere in your home you may have a box of letters stored away in a forgotten corner. These letters may be filled with happy memories from a loved one, or perhaps they are reminders of a painful chapter in your life. But have you ever received a random letter from a stranger? Everyone has heard of people placing a note in a bottle, throwing it into the ocean, and sometimes asking the receiver to reply to a certain address with the date and place they received it. Jeremiah Burke was one of the passengers on board the RMS Titanic as it sank in the early morning of April 15, 1912. The 19-year-old was traveling to New York with his 18-year-old cousin. Both died in the disaster. As the ship sank, Burke quickly scribbled a letter and put it in a bottle. The bottle ended up few miles from his hometown in Ireland a year later. Then there’s the oldest-known letter in a bottle which was dated June 12, 1886 and tossed into the Indian Ocean. Researchers believe this bottle may have washed up onto land less than a year after it was thrown into the ocean but became buried in the sand until it was found in 2018.

Letter writing has become a lost art in this age of email, texting and cell phones. Hannah Brencher didn’t know whether her handwritten letters to strangers would have much meaning, but they certainly did. At the age of 22, she moved to New York City for what she thought was a dream job and ended up spiraling into a deep depression. Not a Christian at the time and trying to find a way cope with her sadness, she began writing letters on the 4-Train and leaving them around the city in places like bookstores, coffee shops, and libraries for others to find in the lonely city. Hannah’s project took on a life of its own when she made an offer on her blog to handwrite a note and mail it to anyone who wanted one. Her inbox exploded with requests from people all over the world. Nearly 400 handwritten letters later, she started the website, The World Needs More Love Letters. Believing that there is something about receiving a handwritten note that is so powerful in today’s digital era, Brencher states that she partners with God daily as a speaker and author. In her book, If You Find This Letter, her attempts to bring more love into the world chronicles how she rediscovered her faith through the movement she started.

The New Testament includes a lot of letters from spiritual leaders to churches and church leaders. The Book of Revelation includes a set of unique letters, identifying the qualities and characteristics of seven church communities. These letters are revealed by Jesus and delivered through His servant John (Revelation 1:1). Letters played a particular role in the culture of early Christians. A Roman official often carried a letter to a town or province which would give him authority, or status as a servant of Caesar. But Paul tells the Church at Corinth that he needs no such letter.  He says: “The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). The letters of Paul and other apostles have become more than ancient documents containing communications to the early church. They serve as teaching documents to all who believe and have relevancy for us today.

Billy Graham once penned these words: “The Bible is God’s ‘love letter’ to us, telling us not only that He loves us, but showing us what He has done to demonstrate His love. It also tells us how we should live, because God knows what is best for us and He wants us to experience it.”  All believers are called to be “epistles,” or letters from Christ, in the way we live.  As ‘living letters’ we can illustrate how Jesus Christ makes a difference in how we treat others and strive to live with integrity. The letters that Jesus is writing these days are therefore not written by hand. Today they are represented by the words and deeds of His followers. In that way, we won’t end up like some floating bottle whose message might never be read.  We will be an example for all to see . . . and we will truly become a living letter from God.

RELECTION: Can you think of someone who needs encouragement, thanks, or a reminder that you are praying for him or her through an actual handwritten note?  Have you ever considered that as a disciple, you are a letter of Christ to the world? What message are you sending through your words and conduct?

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