For the next two weeks, staff intern, Michael Edgar is leading us through John's second and third letters. These two letters are short, but important, none-the-less. Letter writing in John's day was a big deal. Materials weren't cheap and sending letters wasn't easy, so even the shortest letter warrants our attention.
Second John addresses the subject of how truth informs our lives. More specifically, Second John reveals that abiding in truth is essential to maintaining brotherly love.
The truth generates a distinctive Christian community.
John's audience was likely a church group, and in his letter, he encourages them to live out what they believe. He begins by reminding them of two foundational truths: that God's command is for us to love one another, and that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. The community of believers gathers around these (and other) foundational truths.
The truth prompts a distinctive Christian ethic of love.
When believers gather together around the truth, they are marked by their love for one another. That love is what distinguishes Christians from the rest of society. As we love one another despite conflict and difference, we demonstrate the way and truth of Christ. And John reminds us what love is: that we walk in obedience to Christ's commands. Love and truth are thus interlinked for Christians.
The truth produces a distinct Christian doctrine.
John's reminder that Christ came in the flesh is more than a minor theological quibble. Christianity requires adherence to a distinct doctrine, including the belief that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. Today, we retell the old, true story of Christ and interpret it for our times. If someone is adding to or taking away from the gospel, they are not walking in the truth.
The truth demands distinct discernment and care.
How are we to discern the truth with so many competing voices? First, interpretation happens within community. If we only arrive at beliefs on our own, we will miss out on the benefit of thousands of years of other saints' wisdom and learning. When we can come together and agree on certain truths, we can be more sure that God is leading us. Next, truth and authority come from the Bible and from Christ. We must measure all our beliefs by those two standards.
Coming next week: John's third letter!