Exclusion and Embrace
Lord God, Your love is specific. I am not just a number or a code. I am named and loved.
Read 2 John 1-13
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
Which is easier for you: to “walk in truth” or “walk in love”? Do you see a difference?
It focuses the mind when you have only 300 words to communicate your message. That’s the challenge John takes up here. Admittedly he does plan to back up his letter with a visit (12), but this letter is nevertheless going to provide an insight into his priorities as he addresses the needs of a local church (almost certainly the meaning of “to the lady chosen by God and to her children”; v. 1) towards the end of the first century. John’s agenda could be summarized in the expression “exclusion and embrace” (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace). Hard as it is for us to hear and to execute, there is a time for exclusion. There are predators looking to pick off the weak of the flock, deceivers who allow their creativity to take them beyond the foundational teaching about Jesus. Believers have to be lovingly embraced, but these wreckers cannot be accommodated. There is too much to lose (8) and it calls for constant alertness and much-neglected church discipline. The old adage applies: the best detectors of the counterfeit are those who know the real thing best. So, abide in Christ’s teaching (9, NRSV).
Holding truth and love together does not mean a little of each but lots of both! “Walking in the truth” (4) is John’s summary phrase. It calls for so much more than mere knowledge, which too often uses “truth” as a blunt weapon, a cover for misuse of power, a basis for not really listening, or a ground for reinforcing one’s unexamined position. Equally, it will not do to simply ignore truth in order to be nice to people, however pleasantly and creatively falsehood is packaged. Walking in the truth captures the sense that truth is arid unless it is lived and that love is directionless without truth.
Do you tend towards naive acceptance of everything that is said, or to cynicism, whose starting point is suspicion? How do (or can) you “walk in the truth”?
Lord, it’s not always easy to demonstrate my belief by my behavior. I need the gift of discernment and an abundance of wisdom to be Your faithful child.