A recommendation is the act of commending or entrusting someone or something. We take recommendations pretty seriously. Think about Yelp, a successful app based solely on what others are saying about a restaurant. Not only do we consider recommendations when we are looking up the newest foodie place, we also use them as a tool of affirmation towards our qualifications.
Let’s discuss the chisme around recommendation letters…
Paul authored around a third of the new testament and he was key in the expansion of the gospel. In Acts 9 we see that Paul was throwing out some serious shade towards Jesus’s disciples. He went to the high priest (super legit Jewish priest) and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any Christ followers there, he would be seen as having the authority to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Here we see that Paul was using letters of recommendation written by those in high places to affirm his position, his authority, or his legitimacy to persecute the followers of Jesus.
In Philippians 3 we can see that Paul was a pretty legit guy in the Jewish circle when he states, “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” In this passage Paul gives us his resume which highlights the qualifications he had to be considered a faultless law abiding Jew. The high priest’s recommendation letter was a seal of approval endorsing Paul’s qualifications to be seen as a faultless persecutor of the newly formed church. In simple terms Paul was the epitome of a Jewish goody two shoes which qualified him to be a judge and prosecutor of these Jews who went rogue and were now following Jesus.
Then this highly qualified man had a come to Jesus moment… literally. ( Acts 9) A few chapters later we read that this man who used to persecute the followers of Christ became a leading figure in the spreading of the Gospel. In his second letter to the church of Corinth chapter 3, Paul began his message by posing a question: “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.” Questions regarding Paul’s authority arose, but something had shifted him, he was no longer boasting and relying on his qualifications and recommendations. Instead Paul viewed other believers and his relationship to them as an affirming letter from God qualifying him as a minister of the church.
Paul dispels the myth that our own doings will qualify us to enter into relationship with the Father and carry out His will. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 “Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Have you ever stopped short of applying to a position because you did not meet the list of qualifications required? Luckily in the kingdom of God we do not have to rely on our own list of abilities for God makes us competent, in His power we have confidence that His work can be done through us. After Paul had his come to Jesus moment he choose to not rely on his man made credentials and instead have confidence through and in Christ. Can you imagine being more than qualified for a job and leaving it to enter into a career totally opposite of what your qualifications stood for? Can you imagine stepping out fully confident not on your own credentials, but standing fully confident that God made you competent to serve Him and others? Paul took himself out of the equation when he no longer depended on the long list of his own accomplishments, but rather on how the Holy Spirit moved in the lives he had invested into. It was the relationships with others that showed his competency in ministry. Our relationships are the greatest recommendation letters which affirm our own relationship with Jesus. In John 13:5 he said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And the chisme of Paul’s story is that…
God will ask you to leave behind the confidence you have on your man made resume so that you may rely not on your own competency, but have confidence in His power through you. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us competent and the love we have for others is the greatest affirmation that we have the authority of the Kingdom of God in us.