29 Nov Be Careful
Paul, the church planter chosen by Jesus, ended his letters to churches in different ways. Sometimes, Paul just said, With all my love. Most often, he would extend the grace of Jesus as the closing. One time he even told the readers to check out his handwriting to confirm that it was Paul who wrote it.
One of my favorites and the most repeated salutation comes in 2 Corinthians 13:14. Paul concludes his letter, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” I used a variation of that blessing in my benedictions at the end of worship services for years. There is a completeness in that directive that really says it all in a way that can’t be duplicated.
I contrast those last words from Paul with one of the more frequent directions I give my children: Be careful. Be careful. Be care-full. ??? What does that even mean? I say it way too often. I’ve even said good-bye to people occasionally by telling them, Travel safe. What? It’s as if when we go somewhere, we can make a decision to travel safely or unsafely. “Excuse me, Captain, I know you have studied and practiced for years to be able to pilot this jet, but Joe wanted me to tell you to fly safely…today. Thanks.” Those are not the best words with which to say good-bye.
Sometimes I wonder what Hannah and Joseph think when I say, Be careful. How does one…be careful? It has to be white noise at this point. They probably think, this is how Daddy says good-bye. That is really what I am doing, but maybe I need to try something else.
Now, if you want to tell the people you love good-bye by reciting Paul’s words, I can’t argue with that. It’s Paul. I think it is always a good idea to defer to the guy who helped spread the Good News of Jesus…to…the world. Paul certainly wasn’t telling people to be careful.
Paul knew that living for Jesus was not being careful. By following Jesus, you were asking for trouble not safety. Paul is actually telling us we were really going to need God today. Our life was going to be so volatile that we would need the grace of Jesus to deal with people AND the love of God to care for everyone we meet AND the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us so we could make it through the day. Be careful doesn’t work as well in light of that.
Paul prepared the churches the best he could, and he sent them out to be Jesus. He wanted them ready for the world, and that’s why he blessed them with those words. So instead of, Be careful, maybe we should try saying, Trust your instincts and what we teach you, and if you aren’t sure about what to do, think twice about it and then trust yourself. After all, the world isn’t safe but God is greater than the world. God is with us, and God will lead us if we let Him.
Blessings to you,