Paper and Ink


During some recent devotional time through John’s Epistles, I noticed perhaps for the first time the peculiarity of the endings to two of his three epistles:

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. (2 John 1:12 ESV)

I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. (3 John 1:13–14 ESV)

I’ve read these chapters before. I’ve read these verses before. But for the first time, I think it really sat with me that I can learn from these particular verses. Certainly in 2 Timothy 3:16 when Paul says that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, even in these seemingly insignificant detail tucked away at the end of a short letter, I find truth that I need to make a part of my life.

John has much to say to his audience in both of these letters, whomever the audience(s) may be. We’re not sure why, given the uncertainty of who John is writing to specifically, but we know despite its positive or negative implications, there is much that has been laid on John’s heart in regards to these people. And despite this necessary communication, in both instances, we see John say something fascinating: He would rather not forego continuing this communication through letters for the sake of hopefully seeing them in person.

Here I am, writing another blog post.

This is what many folks like myself do. We love theology. We love books. We love thinking. And we like to take the huge smorgasbord of our Christian contemplation and put it down into words, hit “Publish,” and hope it impacts someone else. Christian blogging, ideally, is our way of sharing, centering, and illustrating the gospel to others. It is our way of building up one another in the faith and pointing them back to the glory of God, no matter the context. We are compelled to draft up biblically-informed stances on social and ethical issues. We feel that the blogosphere is a great places to share our musings on the hot topics of the day. Or, perhaps we just want to share what’s been on our heart lately — maybe a devotional, a story, or something of the sort. These are great things, and let us continue to do these things. But maybe John is onto something here, something that will hopefully shape the way we view our writing platforms, however big or small they might be.

Here is what I feel God stirring in my heart about the balance of writing and discipleship through John’s conclusions in these letters:

Your ministry has always been about people first. Writing is meant to serve your people ministry, not detract from it. Writing is a means, not an end.

Who do you write for? Do you write for yourself, or do you write for your brother and sister? Private journals make great places for self-focused writing, but this is not the model for ministry.

Have you longed for face-to-face time with those you’re discipling more than how much you have longed for writing time?

Some things are best discussed not in written format. Though writing helps you get your thoughts out, is always the best way of communicating to another? You should be discerning in what you choose to write, and what you save to share in person.

Share your writing. Have joy in your writing. Be encouraged when others compliment your writing. But do not mistake writing for disciple-making. It is an imperfect substitute.

No matter how much you write today, know that thousands have already said what you’re trying to say, and thousands more will in the days to come. If you’re looking for unique, you won’t find it in writing, and especially about Christianity. You will in face-to-face, discipleship-focused relationships.

I don’t want to minimize the importance of those who feel compelled and called to use their paper and ink for the edification of others and for the glory of God. I am one of these people. But as John points us to in these letters, we have to remember that people will always outweigh paper in importance.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m signing off today to go hang out with people!


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