‘These chanters of church litanies, also do laundry, wash windows, clean up messes of urine and vomit’. Give thanks all who display truth and love.
It focuses the mind when you have only 300 words to communicate your message. That’s the challenge John takes up here. Admittedly he does plan to back up his letter with a visit, but nevertheless this is going to provide an insight into his priorities as he addresses the needs of a local church(almost certainly the meaning of ‘to the lady chosen by God and to her children’;v1) towards the end of the first century. John’s agenda could be summarised in the expression ‘exclusion and embrace’. Hard as it is for us to hear and to execute, there is time for exclusion. There are predators looking to pick off the weak of the flock; deceivers who allow their creativity to take them beyond the foundational teaching about Jesus. Believers have to be lovingly embraced, but these wreckers cannot be accommodated. There is too much to lose and it calls for constant alertness and much neglected church discipline. The old adage applies: the best detectors of the counterfeit are those who know the real thing best. So, abide in Christ’s teaching.
Holding truth and love together does not mean a little of each but lots of both! ‘Walking in the truth’ is John’s summary phrase. It calls for so much more than merely knowledge, which too often uses ‘truth’ as a blunt weapon, a cover for misuse of power, a basis for not really listening or a ground for reinforcing one’s unexamined position. Equally, it will not do simply to ignore truth in order to be nice to people, however pleasantly and creatively falsehood is retailed. Walking in the truth captures the sense that truth is arid unless it is lived and that love is directionless without truth.
Do you tend towards naive acceptance of everything that is said, or to cynicism, whose starting point is suspicion? What do you need to do to ‘Walk in the truth’?