eNewsletter Feature Story – September 23, 2021
This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
Recently, a young man I know asked me if I would serve as a personal reference for him. I was honored to be asked, and, after waiting what I thought was a reasonable amount of time to see if he was joking, I agreed before he could change his mind.
It feels good to be asked by someone to share your opinion of them with others. There is a measure of trust that goes along with their request, their expectation that you have the same recollection of past shared activities and events as they do. When they interview for a job, or apply for a loan, a scholarship, or an academic opportunity, they will present opinions and anecdotes of their past performance. They believe (rightly or wrongly) your input to the process will conform with what they shared.
In other words, they believe you will commend them to others.
In 2 Corinthians 2, the Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, explaining his reasons for having criticized them in a previous letter (“so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice”), and for waiting longer than had originally expected before coming to visit them again (“my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia.”).
Paul concludes the chapter by contrasting his qualifications as someone the Corinthians could trust with those of others who were also claiming to have a teaching worthy of hearing and believing.
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.” —2 Corinthians 2:15-17
As a personal reference for Jesus Christ, Paul’s last line there hits the nail on the head for me.
“…in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.”
Imagine a scenario where someone handed you a list of references and, after you asked them how these individuals knew you, your response was “oh, we’ve never met.” I don’t believe whatever opinion or insight those references might provide would be held in very high regard.
If those references were completely honest and straightforward, the best they could offer would be second-hand knowledge such as:
- I’ve heard he’s a great guy.
- The rumor is his personnel file was full of highly-rated annual evaluations.
- We worked in different divisions at the company, but I parked next to his space at work; he had an excellent ability to keep his car within the lines.
- His letters requesting vacation leave were written with excellent penmanship.
If, however, I indicate years of having worked together on a wide variety of shared tasks, my opinion would hold a great deal more weight in the eyes of those seeking to evaluate my friend.
What Paul is telling the Corinthians is that they can trust him and his companions because they are not merely people who know something about God in the person of Jesus, but they know him personally. In fact, they have stood in God’s presence and have been sent to Corinth by God.
In journalism, there’s a thing called a primary source. It’s usually either an interview with a person who saw something firsthand, or a document written by that person. Without a primary source, an article or news story claiming to be accurate or relevant falls short. If a journalist turns in a story for publication without at least one primary source (two is always best), they can expect to have it sent back or torn up by their editor.
Paul and his cohort aren’t sharing hearsay. They are reporting their own experiences and testifying to their personal knowledge of God.
This Sunday, Rev. Raymond Hylton is preaching from 2 Corinthians 3. Paul continues his letter to the church at Corinth this way:
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Let me paraphrase, as I believe, in essence, Paul is saying “Letters of reference? What letters of reference? You know us, we know you, and we all know God. What could be better than that?”
Think how terrifying it would be to show up for a job interview or a defense of your dissertation and find that none of the people in the room have any idea who you are, let alone the names on your letters of reference.
We can be thankful, then, that God not only knows us (faults and all) but also desires to be known by us and to have an eternal relationship with each of us. And not just a friendship; we are to be his bride!
Want to know us here at First Pres better, too, and understand why we are so committed to knowing Jesus? Join us, then, for our “Life Together” membership class which begins Sunday at 11 a.m. in Room 103, just off the Sanctuary. It is mainly a class for those who are looking to become FPCE members, but it is open to anyone who can commit to being there for each of the three weeks (in person or on Zoom) and who genuinely wants to know why First Pres does what it does, the way it does. Learn more and sign up here!
I had the chance to hear the worship band practice for this week’s service. You won’t want to miss it, and, I expect, be drawn closer to the one who knows us intimately and gave his life for us!
See you Sunday at 10 a.m. in person or online!
Director of Communications