I gave my Pauline Epistles class this exercise on the final day of class: in 20 minutes write a brief letter in which you imagine what Paul would say to the community of believers at Taylor University. Here were the instructions:
- Write a theologically rich greeting/intro.
- Give thanks for something good Paul sees at Taylor.
- Address a problem Paul observes at Taylor.
- Conclude with a brief benediction.
After each group read its letter to the class, we voted for our favorites (the ones that reflected both Paul’s heart and the needs at Taylor the best). The following two letters tied for the most votes. Students in these two groups gave me their permission to post the letters, along with their first names.
First group: Katie, Jessica, Vivi
This letter is from Paul, an apostle appointed by God and Jesus Christ. To the saints of Taylor University. Grace and peace to you! I long to see you soon, but these chains hold me back.
We thank God whenever we remember your unity in Christ and community with one another. We know you Gentiles have come from diverse backgrounds with various traditions and yet you remain faithful to Christ and one another. When I heard that you had established a communal time three times a week to worship God and spend time as the body of Christ I was greatly pleased. I pray that you will remain faithful to God and each other during those times.
I want you to know that I have agonized deeply concerning your commitment to academics and activities. I do not mean to say these things are bad – on the contrary! You have come to this institution to study and make friendships. What concerns me is the devotion you have for these things. When given a choice to pray or spend a whole day studying, why do many of you choose the latter? It is to your advantage to place God at the forefront of your life to ensure the salvation of your souls. You must not forget, brothers and sisters, that these four years are still a part of the race for the prize, so stay strong!
Greet our fellow brothers and sisters, including Dr. Habecker and Dr. MaGee, for me. Grace and peace to you all. Amen.
(Editorial notes: the letter refers to Taylor’s chapel services, which are held three times a week, and Taylor’s president, Dr. Habecker).
Second group: TJ, Ryan, Erin, Andrea, Kamra
Paul, an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ; grace and peace to all the brothers and sisters at Taylor University. I am able to write to you because of the mercy of Christ Jesus, who was resurrected by the Father and also brings us eternal life.
I have not stopped giving thanks for your continual fellowship. The household of MaGee has reported to me your intentional community as well as your integration of faith and learning. Others use knowledge to build themselves up, but you, my brothers, show genuine concern for using your knowledge for the edification of the ekklesia.
However, it is said among you, “ring by Spring,” but do you not realize that some of you pursue this desire at the expense of practicing full devotion to God? I tell you it is better for you to be single when you graduate than to wed before you attain a maturity that comes from knowing Christ only.
Give my greetings to Randy, Eugene, and Bill, who are the very reason I was able to preach among you. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you forever.
(Editorial notes: “ring by Spring” describes the urgency some Taylor students feel about getting engaged while they are at Taylor. Randy, Eugene, and Bill are beloved leaders at Taylor University. Ekklesia is the Greek term used to describe the church or gathering of believers in the New Testament).
It seemed like everyone enjoyed this assignment, and all groups did a great job with the 20 minutes they were given for the exercise.