Hampton, a Global Worker, writes from the perspective of John, one of the disciples of Jesus. What would John have written to supporters back home?
It’s hard to know what to write. As you know, I wasn’t even really burned when they tried to boil me alive in oil, and I praise God for this; I thought for sure that was the end. The believers who were allowed to meet with me before I was sent here to Patmos also anointed me and laid hands on me. God used this to heal the rheumatism in my left knee also, so I can kneel again when I pray for you all.
Though I thank God for preserving me from death, sometimes I question why he spared my life but allowed me to be separated from you like this. It is lonely on this island. I remember when Peter asked Jesus, “What about him?”
I’m kind of glad Jesus never told Peter what was going to happen to me when I got old; I didn’t want to know, and Peter had a way of spilling the beans. I really miss him a lot. It was hard to read about what happened to him, being crucified upside down that way; he was a good friend. But I know he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. That was the kind of guy he was; he loved big displays of love. That was his last chance to show that he wouldn’t deny Jesus again. Now he’s with all the others. It’s just me now, of the original team, and I’m growing old. I feel more and more ready to go be with them and with Jesus again. Even during dark days like this, though, I’m so thankful for all of you. I know you are praying for me, and I’m not alone.
I miss the early days, sometimes – all the excitement and the newness of it all. Most of all, I miss walking with my good friend, my Lord Jesus, to see the shape of his dust-covered feet as we sat there listening to him preach. He always liked to pace when he got excited. Now, we all have his Spirit, and we know a little more what he meant by that, that day when he breathed on us and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
And he was right – for all our sakes, it was for the best that he went up to heaven. Now all of you can keep working in the same power he had, in all your corners. That comforts me, here on this island, on the days when the wind seems to wail my loneliness in my ears. I do miss the way it felt to lean on Jesus, with his body right there, like I would at dinner sometimes. I was just a kid in those days. There was so much I didn’t really understand. And I’m glad. Jesus told us everything we needed to know: “This world will hate you for my sake; I have prayed for you. I am with you always. Love one another.”
That last one is the hardest. I find myself irritable in my old age, forgetting that I was told to expect these aches and pains. All those long days on the road, the stress and the beatings, are really coming home to roost. It’s one of the bad days, I guess. But what would these letters be if I only told you only about the glamorous parts of following Jesus? I write to you to love one another. And I need to see my own liver-spotted, scarred hand penning those words.
I need to remember to love one another when I feel irritable that Livia, the girl sent to bring me my daily ration of beans and boiled grain dropped one of her hairs in it again, and forgot the salt. It’s all I get to eat, I think to myself in exasperation. But here she is, my one remaining visitor, my one remaining mission field. And you.
I have been praying regularly for all of you, that God provides for your physical needs, and you carry on the work in your own field that God has given you to do. I’ve heard of some fights among you, and I’ve been concerned.
Please don’t fight amongst yourselves about pointless things; that was what was most important to Jesus. Love one another. It’s the hardest thing, too. Don’t be afraid; I know you just see so much going wrong all around you; you’ve lost so many friends, and the ones who turned away hurt you even more than the ones who died for their faith. I know there are still those who think that it’s time to stop being kind, it’s time to retaliate. Peter and Simon, as well as Damaris and a couple of the others used to sit around, before they really understood what Jesus was about, batting ideas back and forth about how the Jews ought to overthrow the Romans. Jesus wasn’t really about that kind of power, even though we know that any day now, he will come back to rule.
But he has his own way of bringing that about. I never saw that more clearly than that awful night in the garden when he was betrayed, when he picked up that ear on the ground, dripping blood, and put it back on that man’s head. The man was so stunned that he just let Jesus do it. Later, after the resurrection, he joined the believers in Jerusalem; Mary’s friend told me about it on my last visit. I was afraid when they were lowering me into that vat of boiling oil, I really was. “How do I love these people who are trying to kill me?” For one moment, fear took me over, and I really hated them. I praise God, who held me back from cursing those men and forgives me.
And now here I am, wondering how I am to love this one girl when I drag her long hairs out of my gruel. It’s funny how anything can become an idol, an excuse to curse each other rather than love. We think that it’s the only way we can be safe, to have power to change, or even just to have half-edible soup. But even hairless gruel can become an idol. Love one another and keep yourselves from idols, my sisters and brothers. If that’s the only thing I remember as I age, if my old brain begins to slow and I forget everything else, I’ll just keep repeating this.
Jesus, help us to overcome evil in your power, by loving one another. And let no perceived good, no idol, no creature comfort, no political expediency, nothing come in the way of this, in Jesus’ name.
The next time I write, I have a lot to tell you; as I’ve been praying, I’ve been having some strange visions. I haven’t really known exactly how to put them into words, and my old hand is tired now. Please pray for me, and I’ll write soon. And love one another.
Copy and paste the link to this blog with the answer to one or more of these questions to your own social media. Or you can share the answer in the comments below.
- How do you relate to the topics brought up in this letter from John to supporters back home?
- Describe how God convicted you when you were irritated over growing old, feeling tired, or even burned out and having to deal with things such as people who let you down?
- How are you intentionally seeking to love one another at church and in your community? Even in intentionally loving and praying for your enemies?
- What does John mean when he asks his supporters not to fight over pointless things?
Other Articles in This Series:
- Mary Magdalene’s Missionary Journey
- The Apostle Peter’s Letters To Supporters
- Philip’s Letter To Bethsaida
- The Apostle Andrew Shares His Struggles To Supporters
Resources and Related Articles:
- Read John 15:18
- Read John 20:22
- Rick Griffith’s Letter From Judas
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Photo in header by Jeff and Kim (Nepal)