2 John is a love letter to a very mysterious lady from the apostle of love, St. John.
This lady is, first of all, elect. She has been chosen by God to belong to Him and to walk in His ways all the days of her life. This lady evidently has children, and this lady’s children have been walking in the truth. She is loved by John, who also loves her children. John tells us that she has an elect sister with children as well. John loves her so much that ink and paper are not adequate to convey his love: he wants to come and see her in person.
While three theories have been advanced about just who this Elect Lady is, it makes the most sense to believe that she is nothing less than a church, the Bride of Jesus Christ. As we will see, John reveals the same love for this church as Paul reveals in all of his letters to churches. If we picture the Church in our hearts as the Bride of Christ, His Elect Lady, then I think we will understand how both John and Paul saw the local church. Far from being a random collection of individual Christians who got together once a week for an hour, the local church was to John the Elect Lady of Jesus Christ. And therefore, the beloved disciple who loved Jesus so much loves His Church.
Surely, Jesus knew the heart for love that John had, and this is why, when He was on the Cross, He entrusted His mother, Mary, to the beloved disciple and apostle of love. Because Jesus knew the love of John, He also entrusted His Holy Bride, the Church, to St. John. Out of this love for Jesus and therefore out of his love for the Bride of Christ, John writes his love letter to Jesus’ Elect Lady. This is the same St. John to whom was revealed the messages for the 7 churches.
Understood in this way, 2 John is a picture of the love each of us is to have for our church, which is the local elect Body of Christ that walks in the truth because it walks in love. All throughout the letters to the churches, both St. John’s and St. Paul’s, we find that love and truth are so intimately related that they cannot be separated. This is why John says in verse 1 that he loves the Elect Lady and her children in truth. John blesses this local church by promising, with the authority Jesus has given him to speak for Him, grace, mercy, and peace in love and truth.
For John, as for Paul and James as well, to walk in the truth is to walk in love (verse 4.) What Paul and James teach in their way, John teaches in his own simple but profound language of love. Cutting through all the modern deceptions about what is at the heart of Christian agape love, John simply says, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (verse 6.) When, therefore, James teaches that faith without works is dead, John would say “Amen!”
John, the beloved disciple, learned well from the Master. Where did John get his crazy ideas about love? From Jesus. And where did he get his radical idea that to love God is to obey Him? From Jesus, who perfectly obeyed the will of the Father and was therefore a perfect sacrifice. If Jesus had believed the lie that loving the Father meant feeling a good emotion or intellectually assenting to His existence but had nothing to do with actual obedience to Him, we’d all be going to Hell.
John’s commandment to walk in love, which is to walk in obedience, is the commandment that the Elect Lady, the Church, has heard from the beginning. It is, in fact, the New Commandment that Christians love as God has first loved us. The way Jesus presented it was new to His disciples in John 13, but by the time John writes the Elect Lady, it is the commandment he and she have heard from the beginning.
This New Commandment is also Jesus’ Last Commandment, His Great Commission. What is it that Jesus actually commanded His disciples in His Great Commission? To go and make disciples. The Great Commission is about discipleship, not evangelism, which is often understood as a kind of spiritual “foot in the door.” What Jesus actually says is to baptize the name of the Trinity, and to teach them to obey all that I have commanded you. The Great Commission (make disciples) and Great Commandment (love) turn out to be the same thing: love God by obeying Him, and teaching others to do the same. Truth and love turn out also to be the same thing, when properly understood. Truth is not an intellectual abstraction or a mere mental assent. “Truth is Love, Love Truth – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” (to adapt Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”)
John’s love letter is very personal. Very personal. It applies to you! You are one of the children of the Elect Lady. The love of God that is manifested by obedience to Him is to be manifested in your life. And you have heard God’s commandment to love by obeying from the beginning.
How greatly we should all rejoice whenever we find God’s children, the children of Christ’s Holy Bride, walking in the truth because they are walking in love! How blessed when we love one another as He first loved us. How blessed when we disciple each other and teach each other to obey all that He has commanded us!
To love our neighbor as ourselves, and thereby to love God, should be easier in the local church than anywhere else on earth. Your local church is the Elect Lady, the Bride of Jesus Christ. In your local church, your neighbors are a part of you and you are a part of them. John’s love was so great that he found that ink and paper, very precious in the ancient world, were inadequate for the love he had for the Elect Lady. He wanted to come in person and to speak face to face to the church to whom he writes.
John’s love for this church was so great precisely because the Christians there have known the truth and walked in it. Because of this, all who love the Truth also loved this church.
That is the love we should all pursue. Let’s learn to love the Father by obeying Him. Let’s learn to love one another, as He has commanded us through His Son. But to do this, we’ll have to learn to spend more time face to face.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your grace, mercy, and peace which come from Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I rejoice in Your love which You have shown to me and to the world through Your Son, and I ask that You would increase Your love in me. Help me to love You by obeying You and by loving those in Your Elect Lady. Amen.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve to meditate on the people of God as God’s Elect Lady, who walks in truth and love and what this means to me practically.
More specifically, review how you view your life in your local church. Do you see it as God’s Elect Lady? Do you have a love of God’s people and a desire to spend time with them face to face? In what ways are you engaged in helping your local church fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples who love God by obeying Him?
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson