Read 2 JOHN
1 The elder,
To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:
3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.
4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.
12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
13 The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Complete joy is the result of fellowship. The New Testament knows nothing of perfect joy outside fellowship with each other through fellowship with the Father and the Son” (John Stott, 1921–2011).
Although the opening of this letter, unlike 1 John, follows the customary formula—writer, recipients, greeting—it is somewhat obscure to us because of the oblique references to “the elder” and “the lady chosen by God.” “The elder” probably emphasizes John’s position of authority in the church and “the lady chosen by God” may mean the church.
This letter is about truth and love. How difficult we find to live in them today. In our pluralistic society we are often urged to be tolerant, but this won’t do, for two reasons. First, it is too broad. Things that are patently wrong (criminal behavior, for example) are not to be tolerated. Second, it is too narrow. I want to be loved, not tolerated. We are to exercise truth and love. It’s interesting that it was the Ephesians whom Paul urged to practice the truth in love (Eph. 4:15, NET Bible); while John, having praised the Ephesians in Revelation 2:2 for testing “those who claim to be apostles but are not” and finding them to be false, now upbraids them for their lack of love.
Verse 12 speaks volumes to Christian leaders today. We see John’s love for these people in his desire to be with them. We see his leadership in wanting to address the heresy in their midst. We see his wisdom in not wanting to tackle troubling issues in a letter. Hard though it is, the more difficult a conversation is the more important it is to have it face to face (literally “mouth to mouth”; 12). If that’s impossible a phone call is second best. A letter—or email in today’s world—is the worst way to resolve personal difficulties. How often, in a desire to avoid confrontation, we reverse this back to front.
What tensions are you facing in your own Christian community? What discernment has the Spirit given you in addressing the problems?