2 John 4-6
2 John is one of the three letters by the apostle to his Christian friends. It is interesting that in the brief compass of three verses John writes three times of “walking in the truth.” Obviously he uses the verb in a metaphorical sense because one doesn’t literally “walk” in a concept. The point seems to be that they carry on their daily life in a steady and unhurried manner. They are to “walk” in the truth, not “run” or “skip through.” So much good can be said of a faithful and steadfast life that moves ahead each day under the control of a calm spirit. It is a little bit like the childhood fable of the tortoise and the hare – the hare may be a bit more exciting, the tortoise is the one that gets the job done.
Apparently John had gotten word that some of the younger members of the assembly were “walking in the truth,” content to live balanced lives that showed a commitment to their parents in the Lord. This is how God had instructed the church to live. There may be times for quick action but as an ongoing policy it is the tortoise believer who gets there first. The Father had commanded, not suggested, that this was the way to live as a believing Christian.
In verse 5 John reminds the “dear lady” (the feminine form of the word “Lord”), that is, the church body, that from the beginning God’s desire for the members of the assembly was that they would “love one another.” The importance of love for one another in the church is absolutely basic. Believers are redeemed not simply so they will go to heaven, but so, by the beauty of their mutual concern for one another, they will display a quality of life that will attract others into a relationship with God. (John makes the same point in his gospel: 17:21, 23).
In verse 6 John explains what he means by love. As he puts it, love is a life walked in obedience to all that God had commanded. To love God is to do what God has said. That is simple yet profound, brief yet all-inclusive. In God’s world clarity replaces complexity. The “commands” of which Jesus speaks are not military regulations but loving concern for others. That’s what lies at the heart of God’s desire for man. His plan is that we become like him. We are made in his image for one major reason, and that is so we can relate to him in a personal sense. He wants us to know him.
2 John 6
“To love is to live as God has ordained. As you’ve heard from the beginning, let love control your life.”
We have said it before, but once again it calls for our attention – We are to carry out the will of God in our lives. We are to do what he has commanded. That sounds a bit severe, but the truth is that God’s laws are warnings against acts and attitudes that, should we follow them, would lead to solitude and misery. How infinitely kind of God to say, “Don’t put your finger on that “hot stove.” The hot stove is anything and everything that, should we touch it, would burn us sometimes fatally. God is our sovereign guardian keeping watch lest we damage ourselves with sin.
In one sense life is 70 plus years of decision-making. Many of the decisions have no moral or ethical element but more than you would think do. Someone crosses the street outside a pedestrian zone bringing you to a screeching stop and you let him know in no uncertain terms what he has put you through. You made two decisions simultaneously: slam on the brakes and let the other know your opinion of him (and the last was ethical.) No big deal, you say. Well, let’s see. You are 65 now and you started making ethical decisions when you were . . let’s say 2 and that means that you have made about 12,345,678 (obviously a rough number) moral decisions in which you knew on the basis of custom and conscience were either right or wrong. What has happened is that you yourself have created your own character because who you really are (that part of you that goes one place or the other at death) was being developed all along the way. In a very real sense we determine by our life choices who we want to be.
This is where God enters the picture. God created us in his image so we could have fellowship with him. To do his he gave us freedom, and with that comes the prospect of failure. This calls for some coaching from the sidelines. Here is what you should do in this situation (commandment #1): here is what you should not do (commandment #2). And so it goes. God tells us where the landmines of life are laid. There are places where you shouldn’t put your feet and other places where you can tramp around all you want. It is all defined in scripture and what isn’t there are either those non-secular items that don’t amount to anything of lasting value or decisions that call for nothing but common sense.
In summary, we create who we are by the decisions we make and God’s involvement has to do with helping us do the right things.
1 John 5:18-20
John closes his letter by reminding the believers of several basic things that they know to be true and therefore should play a major role in their thinking.
The first is basic. “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin” (v. 18). The NIV (and others) note that John used the present tense of the verb hamartano, “to sin,” thus calling attention to the fact that it was the continuing in sin that was not acceptable. Obviously we all are guilty of the occasional sin but to continue in sin reveals an intentional decision not to stop sinning in that particular way. The church correctly understood that to deliberately continue doing something that was wrong or to refuse to change an unacceptable attitude was wrong. If a person is “born of God” and kept safe in his care so the “evil one cannot harm him” they simply will not continue in some sin (as was happening with the group that had given up the truth that Jesus had come from The Father). Being born of God redirects the believer away from sin, especially intentional sin.
The second thing they knew was that they were “children of God” (v. 19). They had denounced the way they had been living and turned gladly to Jesus, thus making them brothers and sisters in the family of God. When a family gathers it is time for celebration and the sharing of memories. In contrast to that joyful scene “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (v. 19). There is nothing quite like the strong ties of family or the bonding that develops in the time of war. As “family” we enjoy a unique relationship of love and affection. How remarkable it is to be members of a family with God as Father and Jesus Christ as an elder brother. While families here on earth come and go, our family in heaven will continue forever.
The third thing we know is that God’s Son came and made it possible for us to understand the one true God. We can read this in two ways: Jesus himself discloses to the believer what God the Father is like. By knowing the Son we understand the Father. The other nuance is that knowing the Son has provided us with what might be called an introductory course in the spiritual world. The world in which we have lived is a created world and is wide open to scientific inquiry that explains that which is material. God’s “world” is of a different source and Jesus has made it possible to enter it and to some degree understand it.