I was thinking this morning about my box of booklets, notebooks filled with notes from services and classes and taped messages many now converted to digital format. They are treasures and stepping stones and riches connections.
Some stranger would look at my box of booklets and see something worthless. They might find my watch and it might catch their eye or some piece of computer equipment and think, 'Finally something of value.' while quickly discarding the box as useless junk to be left out in the rain.
I like the term 'man of letters' because it refers to person that values ideas more than things. Perhaps we associate such a person with the letters coming after their name like PhD or D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) showing that they spent time inside of many books. I like to think or a 'man of letters' as a person who wrote and reads many correspondences... who shares ideas with other people that also value ideas.
The Apostle Paul knew a great deal about letters. Unlike Peter and the other Apostles he had spent most of his life with his head in one book or another. Scrolls back then but the same concept.
Look at what he says here..
"Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered 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 sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?" - 2 Corinthians 3:1-8 ESV
There had been a great shift for Paul. He had moved from the philosophy and righteousness that could be found on paper and moved to the life that was found in the Spirit.
The letters of the law carved in stone had a ministry of death. God had communicated judgement by words carved on stone. People want earthly qualification written on paper as a means to evaluate the worth of someone and that is a different form of the same judgement. They are parallel ideas.
Paul wrote his letters to people and said, 'My love is my letter of recommendation.' Love reveals people as living epistles but that is only seen in the light of of the Spirit who reveals it. The letter of who they are on paper kills.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." - John 1:1-17 ESV
Jesus is God's living letter. Not carvings in stone that removed something to make it's ideas known. Jesus was added to the world not carved out of it.
I love my Bible because it reveals Him. If I did not see Christ in it's pages it would kill me like it has been used to kill others through the centuries. It would carve me to pieces. But because I do see Him it adds something day by day... something nourishing and eternal.
I love my box of booklets also because they were written by living epistles and point me toward my Savior, not like the Bible does, that is a direct connection but in the way that Paul loved the Corinthians and many of the Corinthians loved Paul. The Spirit uses people and what they say and do to reveal God's life.
Sitting here writing this I think about what is of value. The person reading it is of value. It is not the transcript of the phone call that matters but the person on the other end and the relationship that call represents.
The booklet has value to me but there is a time to close it and put it down and interact with people by the Spirit. God will use what we know in those relationships... light interacting with light and dispelling darkness.
One day, like all of us, I'll be gone and will leave the booklets behind. They will likely be left out in the rain somewhere but my relationships that have Christ in the midst of them will last forever.