Love Letters: Truth & Love

Pastor Terry Inman

9-29-2013

 

11 John (NIV)

We live in a culture where truth is relative. It is not absolute. Truth is a moving target. In high school I played the slide trombone. I liked it because the slide is forgiving. You can wiggle into the right notes. In our culture truth gets tweaked by the teller, it’s whatever I think or feel. It’s what suits my life-style at the moment. You have your truth I have mine.

When truth is relative, love gets tainted. God is the gold standard for truth and love. We can’t design our own truth and love, it imamates from God who is the truth and God who is love.

In these “Love Letters” John has been exposing the fake faith of some untruthful and unloving defectors who where bringing division and confusion to the church.

He has been holding authentic truth and love to the light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. Today he again picks up this theme in a very brief letter addressed to an anonymous “Chosen Lady”. In this very brief second letter John simply identifies himself as “The Elder”.

 “The elder, to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth—because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” 2 John 1-3 (NIV)

Elder is (presbyteros) a word typically used for seniors in the ancient Greek world. The church adapted it to refer to those holding office or leading the church locally or regionally. Elder was used to describe their spiritual maturity and bishop (epískopos) was used to describe their function as overseers. The fact that these leaders were respected for their spiritual leadership and authority is indicated by Paul’s instructions.

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 1Tim. 5:17   

Another common synonym for the work of these mature local or regional leaders is Pastor or shepherd. Peter who became the head of the church in Jerusalem wrote to local Pastors. 

 “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers not because you must, but because you are willing.” 1 Pet. 5:1-2 (NIV)

I count it an honor that God would allow me to shepherd this flock. I am now in my 43rd year of ministry almost half of has been here at Harbor Light. We are now in our 20th year as your Pastors. Someone said people may appoint but God anoints.

John must have been so familiar and respected by his readers that he could just call himself “The Elder” and they would know who he was and what he stood for.   

Theologians speculate on whether this letter was addressed to an actual woman or to a regional or local church under John’s spiritual supervision.

“Chosen Lady” could be a woman’s name. “Lady” is (Gr: kyria)which was a common Greek name but also a general term used for Christian women.

This chosen lady could have been an actual woman or a coded label for a local congregation. In the gospel of John and in the book or Revelation John speaks of the church as the bride of Christ. We also use the term sister church when refereeing to another congregation.

John could have been using this name as a term of endearment or a cover for a local congregation that could have been persecuted if specifically mentioned. I occasionally email leaders in closed countries. We have to be very carful about mentioning their location and titles.

John was possibly addressing a female leader and a local congregation about truth and love. The message translation picks this up.

My dear congregation, I, your pastor, love you in very truth. And I’m not alone—everyone who knows the Truth that has taken up permanent residence in us loves you. Let grace, mercy, and peace be with us in truth and love from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, Son of the Father!   2 John 1-3 (MSG)   

The linking of “truth” and “love” is important. John’s readers are in the truth: they know Jesus as the Christ, the Father’s Son. They are also the recipients of God’s love as it is expressed in the community of faith.

John is speaking in clear contrast to the heretics. They do not have the truth nor do they know what it means to be in the community of love. The church is the community of truth and love.

Truth is more than what is objectively known. Truth is experienced. John says God’s truth lives in us. It saturates our whole existence. Because it is the truth of God, it also has no temporal limitation. God’s truth is forever.

Love and truth are not passing sentiments or disciplines that have to be learned and acquired. Love and truth originate in God. His enduring truth and unending love are freely given to us. We just need to live them out.

The greeting in this letter is not just a common salutation. It is what we can expect if we are living in His truth and love. “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”  2 John 3 (NIV)

Let’s break these three things down. Grace is God’s unearned favor. Mercy is God’s disposition of compassion toward us. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what we deserve!

Peace here literally means, “to set at one again”. It is a state of spiritual, emotional and physical wholeness. It is true prosperity. It is to be at rest with oneself and reconciled to God and everyone else. “Make every effort to live in peace withall men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Heb. 12:14 (NIV)    

Again grace mercy and peace are the byproducts of living in God’s truth and love. To live in God’s truth is simply to entrust our lives to His Son the Lord Jesus and let him love in us and through us.

John uses the expression “walking” for living out “truth and love”.  It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning.

I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.  2 John 4-6 (NIV)

The “children” walking in the truth are those that have been born into the family through belief in God’s son the Lord Jesus. When God’s truth and love are in us, all we need to do is walk it out.

God’s command to love one another as we saw last week is not burdensome; it is not a new commandment. It is not an add-on to faith. It is an outflow of faith. John introduced this in his first letter. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1John 3:23 (NIV)

Some of us are all about love. However we may not be fully living out the truth or we may find it uncomfortable to speak truth into the lives of others. That’s really not perfect love. That’s self-preservation. The bible says, perfect our mature love casts our fear.

Some of us are all about truth. We live by the book and expect everyone else too. We are not hesitant to speak the truth, but we may be short on love. The bible says we are to speak the truth in love.

God is truth and love. He gives us a balance of the two. We don’t really love if we are withholding the truth. We can’t be truthful without love.

John uses the word “command” four times in these last three verses. He makes is very clear that it is God’s will that knowing the truth, which is living in Jesus Christ, is evidenced by loving one another. Walking in the truth is walking in love!

Apparently these antagonists who denied Jesus had come in the flesh had influenced this particular congregation. They distorted the truth to match their own agenda and, according to John, they did not love people. 

John warns this sister congregation. “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.”  2 John 7-8 (NIV)     

John is suggesting that these “deceivers” were once part of the church maybe even some of his disciples. They left the church for the world. As apostates they lost the reward they worked for.   

John is also feeling that loss. We will be rewarded for what we have done for Christ. Rom. 14:12 says, “each of us will give an accountof himself to God.” 1Cor. 3:8 “each will be rewardedaccording to his own labor.”

In the early seventies hundreds of young people were coming to Christ as part of the Jesus movement. They were coming out of the drug culture. A rock musician I discipled in Nebraska left a life of drugs, alcohol and a popular band to serve Jesus. He influenced many others. But one day he came up missing. When I found him, he just flat out told me he was going back to the band and his former life. I was devastated. It tore my heart out. I pleaded with him to no avail. Many years later I received a call from him. He was on his way back.

 

John says we need stay clear of those that have willfully strayed from the truth and are trying to influence you or others. We should not entertain them or their false teaching.   

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. 2 John 9-11(NIV)

Before I go on. Some teach that once we are saved we are always saved. They argue that people like the teachers John mentions were never really saved in the first place. That’s not what John says. He says, “they did not continue in the teaching of Christ” therefore they no longer have God in their lives. It is very difficult but we can loose our salvation by rejecting the truth or failing to walk in it.   

John’s final words demonstrate that he is an apostle of truth and love. “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.” 2 John 12-13 (NIV)

John had some tuff truth to pass along to this church he refers to as a chosen lady. But he would never settle for facebook or emails. He wanted to talk to his people face to face heart to heart. He wanted them to know the truth but he also wanted them to experience his love. That way they would come to a place of mutual joy.

Conflict resolution is not easy. It’s messy. It’s not easy to speak the truth in love. There is a lot of discomfort in telling the truth or hearing the truth. But love takes the time to listen then speak and continue the dialog until there is mutual understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation.

People who avoid conflict never reach the depth of truth or love that God intends us to experience in our relationships with Him and each other.

You may have said some very harsh things to someone in this church. It may have been true but it wasn’t done in a way that was perceived loving and now you are alienated.

Or maybe you thought you were being loving by ignoring someone’s sin. But now it’s affecting others. If you really love them you will tell them the truth. You will do it with kindness and humility. You will do it with the goal of restoring a brother or a sister.

Do you have some truth and love work to do? James 5:20 says, “Whoever turns a sinner fromthe error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” 1 Pet. 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love coversover a multitude of sins.”   

Again John affectionately signs off like one special sister would greet another. The children of your chosen sister send their greetings or as it reads in the message “everyone here in your sister congregation sends greetings”. In other words, my family loves your family and we will get this all worked out!