An Authentic Transformed Heart (Part 1).
The Apostle John was as an Elder in the Jerusalem church at this point in time when he wrote his three short Pastoral Letters, prior to his incarceration on the island of Patmos. His second Epistle was to ‘a chosen lady and her children’ who had endeared themselves to him (2 John 1). They probably belonged to a local congregation familiar to John, who referred to an impending visit (2 John 12).
John’s perspectives on ‘truth’ (mentioned 5 times in his Letter) and ‘love’ (mentioned 3 times) can be drawn from his earlier Gospel narrative. Read in that context, ‘truth’ and ‘love’ are not mere cerebral abstract ideas, but they are personified in Christ Jesus, as He is Truth and Love Himself (c.f., John 14: 6; 1 John 4:8). These teachings are not new, but John chose to emphasise them here due to the inroads made into the community of faith by others who had questioned the existence of the earthly Messiah (2 John 7). He further reiterated the enduring relevance of the two imperative and unchangeable commandments that had been taught to them earlier – to love God and to love your neighbour (2 John 5-6), as he proceeded to explicate how a life of walking in truth and love looked like in the community. The good reports he had heard concerning the devoted lady and some of her children became his exemplary witnesses (2 John 1-4). The human frame embodied by Christ would inevitably and irresistibly desire to articulate the divine qualities of truth and love (c.f., John 14:23-24). This spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit in the believers’ life can however be quenched by an inordinate focus on the self, and John takes issue with this extinguishing of God’s witness in His people (c.f., 1 Thess 5:19). So, by a believer’s truthful and loving outward living, serving, and demeanour in their society, they are able to recognise his inward Christ-likeness. John’s intent was to remind the believers that the only way they were able to celebrate the life that was given them in Christ was to live their lives selflessly as Jesus did when He walked this earth – this was their calling (c.f., 1 Cor 6:19-20; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:10). The life in Christ is to be totally and seamlessly integrated into our very limited existence while on this earth (Phil 3:7-11).
Having reemphasised faithfulness to the foundational teachings of Christ, John arrived at the purpose of his Letter: a warning to the believers against the creeds of ‘the deceivers and the antichrist.’ Some commentators alluded these contrary beliefs to the followers of neoplatonic dualism known as Docetism, where a dichotomy existed between evil matter and sacred spirit. Therefore, their followers claimed that Christ could not have come in the flesh (2 John 7) as the two cannot exist together in God. Furthermore, the highly disciplined and moralistic lifestyles of these deceivers ironically made them more possessive and judgmental, often neglecting to care for the physical needs of the disadvantaged among them. Hence, John countered that the believers were to continue sharing not only the truth, but also their compassionate love for the needy around them. This advice remains relevant to us as our intellectual and/or emotional self-righteous ‘spirituality’ can certainly remove us from noticing the brazen needs around us, and detach us from extending Christian love to others in the deployment of our possessions, wealth and personhood (2 John 8-9). John was also cautious in his advice to these new believers with respect to the treatment of false teachers, encouraging them to exclude extending hospitality and fellowship to the disbelievers, so that they are not drawn into participating or supporting their evil deeds (2 John 10-11). He ended his Letter with an expectation of visiting them soon (2 John 12-13).