This letter is from John, the elder.
I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth – as does everyone else who knows the truth – because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever.
Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ – the Son of the Father – will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.
How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.
I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.
I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.
If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.
I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.
Greetings from the children of your sister, chosen by God.
This letter is from John, the elder.
I am writing to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth.
Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.
Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.
I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.
Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.
Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. We ourselves can say the same for him, and you know we speak the truth.
I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.
Peace be with you.
Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.
This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.
I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ.
May God give you more and more mercy, peace, and love.
Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful. And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.
In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction. What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.
When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.
Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.
But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them. But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.
Relate: There are two consecutive paragraphs in 2 John that really don’t seem to belong together. In the first, John says, “I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another… Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another.” This is immediately followed by, “I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist… Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God.”
On the one hand, John is telling us that the first and greatest command is to love God and one another. The two are inseparable. You cannot possibly do one without doing the other as well. But on the flip side, he is telling us to contend firmly for the truth. Anyone who teaches falsehood is a deceiver and an antichrist. And anyone who agrees with them has no part with God. That doesn’t sound very loving, does it? Doesn’t it seem awfully judgmental? How can we possibly be loving while calling someone an antichrist or a pagan? What is worse, some will take this apparent dichotomy and use it as an excuse to become downright wretched and mean to others in person and on their social media accounts. Are they really, truly being loving?
React: In modern western culture, we have equated love with tolerance. Even worse, we have distorted the concept of tolerance to mean that we cannot disagree with others. If someone believes that Trump was the greatest president in history, or if they hold to a radical version of critical race theory, the loving thing for us to do is simply to agree with them, or at worst, refrain from sharing your own contradictory opinions. I’m sorry but this is not love.
On the flip side, there are those like Todd Friel and a bevy of Facebook and Twitter warriors who will ruthlessly batter and bash anyone who does not fully agree with them. They will claim that in doing so they are “speaking the truth in love.” No, they are not. They are simply trying to prove that they are right. I know, because all too often I find myself doing the same. It is all so easy to continue a discussion well beyond the point of productivity because I need to demonstrate that I am right and I need to get in the last word or they might think they have won the argument. I’m sorry, but this is not love either.
One thing to keep in mind is that the letter of 2 John was written to a community of people with whom John had spent decades building a deep relationship. He wasn’t writing to some random strangers, but to people who knew him and knew his heart. When I have spent weeks and months and years investing in a relationship with someone, and when I have spent hours and days on my knees in prayer for them, then I have a right to speak harshly when they have stepped out of line. They will know that I am speaking out of a heart of love and a concern for their well being. And I will know that I am not doing it just to score debate points… at least I shouldn’t be.
Does that mean we shouldn’t defend the faith or contradict those who are wrong? Most of the time, probably. I would guess that in my own life, about 99% of the time when I am doing so, I shouldn’t be. At least, not in the way and with the words I am using. The question for me always comes back to motivations and glory. Am I trying to give God glory and show someone else a better picture of who God is? Or am I trying to prove how smart I am and convince someone else that they’re wrong and I am right? Even if I win this argument, who gets the credit, me or God? What about you? How often do you find yourself diving into debates that bring disrepute, rather than glory to God?
Help me to learn better to hold my tongue. Help me to better discern when and how to defend the truth. Help me to be wiser in picking what battles are worth fighting for. When people see us, let them comment on how loving we are. Then we will know that we truly are being a reflection of You.