Its that time of year for Christmas greetings. Some come with a letter giving a brief update from the author on the events of the past year. Others let the card convey the message and simply sign their name. Personal mail, handwritten and delivered by the post office is becoming more rare. In fact, personal mail is so rare that the recipients often hold on to them for years. I have an overflowing file of such notes that bring encouragement and joy.
Some of the letters written to the early churches are found in the New Testament. The advice written long ago is timeless. The issues people faced in the first century are still around today.
What if Paul or Peter or John wrote a letter to the church you attend?
What conduct would be commended?
What conduct would be corrected?
Who would be named?
What warnings would be issued?
What would be the subject of their prayers?
The letters in the New Testament dealt with specific issues. The church in Corinth was divided into parties. They tolerated immoral conduct. They turned on each other in lawsuits. They misunderstood marriage. They wondered what foods were permissible to eat. They forgot the meaning of communion. They flaunted their spiritual gifts. They didn't quite get death and the afterlife.
Most churches have strengths and weaknesses. Some are inward focused. Some are off track in doctrine. Some are divided over small matters. Some have lost their purpose. There is a constant battle to be a light for God in the surrounding culture. We carry baggage from our old lives that's hard to release. Ego and personal agendas make unity a challenge. It is a constant battle.
There are no perfect churches because they consist of flawed people. Yet those "jars of clay" are filled with the Spirit of God.
Owen Couch said, "Satan's biggest problem is a unified church. He will do anything to divide it."
Paul said, Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.
The church is God's bride. She deserves our respect and tender loving care.
The ancient mail found in the Scriptures guides the way. I hope you are are enjoying these personal letters that have been preserved for our instruction and encouragement.
Be strong and courageous, Mike