I read 2 John this morning. It was pretty easy. I mean, it’s only 13 verses, five of them are greetings and goodbyes.
But while I read it, I came across three things that challenged me today, that inspired me and made me think.
“Some of your children walking in the truth”
First of all, the whole “walking in” phrase related to Christianity is an under-evaluated piece of Christianese. That’s for another post, I think.
Secondly, what a great thing for this to be said of the “elect lady” that is the recipient of this letter! Of course, as I look this up and do a bit of research, and apparently some say the “elect lady” is symbolic of the church. But the whole text doesn’t bear that out.
Anyway, for a mother in the church to be singled out by an apostle of Jesus for the faithful obedience of her children, that’s huge. I love two things about this.
First, there’s John’s encouragement. He takes the time to compliment this mother by acknowledging her children as being obedient to the commands of God. It’s a slight call for all of us in the church to be more adamant about encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Second: Isn’t that what we all want for our kids? I don’t have kids yet, but when I read that this morning, I was so challenged. I want my kids to be “walking in the truth.” I want my kids to be following Jesus so closely that everything they do is shaped by what God has called us to.
Loving others = following God’s commands
Loving others, John writes, means following God’s commands. Verse 6 says:
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.2 John 6
Loving others means, among other things: telling the truth and not lying, providing hospitality, listening to other’s issues, praying for others in need. It means we do that for anyone and everyone, and that is the sign we are believers in Jesus. That is the sign of love.
And, as John writes later, “whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (v. 9b). That’s what I want.
Be careful when interacting with false teachers
The epistles and the book of Acts in particular records many instances of people twisting the message of Jesus to suit their desires, whether it be financial or popularity. In 2 John, the author warns the elect lady about those false teachers:
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greetings, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked words.2 John 10-11
I struggled with this one for a bit because it seems kind of heartless. My immediate takeaway is this: “Don’t greet or have any kind of hospitable interaction with people who preach a false gospel, because those kind of interactions signal agreement.”
I think this interpretation is a practical outworking of the common thought that goes something like this: If you don’t actively oppose, in word or deed, something or someone bad, you are implicitly endorsing it.
I think that’s simplifying it a little bit. I think there are a lot of things I’m against, but I don’t have the time and resources to dedicate to all of them. Not being active in it by using a hashtag or attending a rally doesn’t mean you don’t care. It just means you have better things to do.
Not that that’s always true per se, but I think it’s important we make that distinction.
A side note: I’m not just talking about the “social justice warrior” crowd here who say that. I’m talking also about the “evangelicals” who participate in it as well.
Anyway, I hope John’s intent here was to be hospitable to people and to be kind, but not to endorse false teaching or wish well those who preach that on their preaching. I don’t know if it was his intent, but I hope that was it.
If it was, that’s awesome. We should be hospitable to and welcoming of those with whom we disagree. We should be kind. We should be loving. But loving doesn’t mean endorsing something we believe is wrong or wishing someone well on their mission.