How to Grow a Balanced Christian Life
2 John 1-6
Truth does not need updating. There is a story of a man who came to his old friend, a music teacher, and said to him, “What’s the good news today?” The old teacher was silent as he stood up and walked across the room, picked up a hammer, and struck a tuning fork. As the note sounded out through the room, he said, “That is A. It is today; it was five thousand years ago, and it will be ten thousand years from now. The soprano upstairs sings off-key, the tenor across the hall flats on his high notes and the piano downstairs is out of tune.” He struck the note again and said, “That is A, my friend, and that’s the good news for today.”1
The Bible speaks often about balance. Mostly, this is in terms of economics.
“Honest balances and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his concern.” (Proverbs 16:11, CSB)
Yet, the Wisdom books also show that a balance can be used to measure the quality of my life. Job said this about his concerns and how God should judge him.
“let God weigh me on accurate scales, and he will recognize my integrity.” (Job 31:6, CSB)
It is interesting that Job says that God will recognize his integrity. Job is saying: “Weigh my life, God. You will find my life that has been faithful to you.” Can you say the same as Job? When you look at your life, is your Christian life in balance? What does that mean to have my Christian life in balance? The letter of 2 John addresses this balance. He talks about “walking in truth” and “walking in love.” A Christian must have both. They must both be in balance. Like a scale, we must have an equal amount of truth (which I will define as integrity) as well as an equal amount of love. First, let’s talk about “walking in the truth.”
Live with Christian integrity – “Walking in Truth” (2 John 1-4)
“The elder: To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not only I, but also all who know the truth—because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father.” (2 John 1–4, CSB)
Although John talks about love more than any other writer in Scripture, he also emphasizes truth more than any other writer—using the word ‘truth’ 20 times in his Gospel, 9 times in 1 John, 5 times in these opening verses of 2 John, and 5 more times in 3 John.
I find it interesting that it was the apostle of love whom the Lord tapped on the shoulder to also be the one who stressed truth. When you talk about love, it’s very easy to get mushy, to become sentimental, to begin to say, ‘I’ll just love that person rather than be honest with him.’ Such is not the case with John.
And his example is a needful one in a day when the economy has eclipsed integrity as our nation’s top priority, in an age where what is true for one person may or may not be true for another, in a culture which embraces Pilate’s question, ‘What is truth?’ (John 18:38), rather than Jesus’ declaration, ‘I am the truth’ (John 14:6).
Our relationships with our kids, our spouses, our sisters, and our brothers in the Lord cannot survive without truth. That’s why Paul says we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), for you can’t truly have one without the other.2
Truth in this letter literally means the “state of being genuine.” This is what having integrity means – being true to yourself.
How can you tell if someone is a phony or a counterfeit? Simply put, when he fails to tell the truth. But what is the truth and where is it found? The Christian believer’s best guard against falsehood is knowing for himself what the Bible says. With God’s Word available, there is no excuse for ignorance. Ignorance is like a welcome mat at the door inviting the wolf to come in to destroy God’s precious lambs.3
Truth is the main emphasis in the first part of this letter. In the first four verses, we see the word truth used five times. Each time it is used, we can get an idea of the quality of what the word means. If truth is a way of being genuine, then we see five truths about genuine Christian integrity. If I am going to grow as a Christian, I have to be true to Christ as well as how Christ has made me.
5 TRUTHS ABOUT CHRISTIAN INTEGRITY
1. Christian integrity isn’t based on an individual but is based on living in community
“The elder: To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not only I, but also all who know the truth—” (2 John 1, CSB)
When we think of Christian integrity, one immediately thinks that we are all individual Christians. In one sense that is true. But we are never isolated individuals. To be a genuine Christian, it means that you live this life with others. Christian integrity requires accountability.
The elder is John who is writing to a lady and her children. This is a metaphorical way of saying “the church and its members.” The personification of a community was not uncommon in ancient writings.4
The Christian life does not happen in isolation. We see that this letter is addressed to a group of Christians in a certain location, a group setting. If we are going to express a true Christian faith, then we need the accountability of a group. Accountability is necessary for the church because as we will see later in the letter, there are people who don’t really care about being true to Christ and His church. So we need accountability if we are going to be true Christians. In other words, real Christian living happens in a group.
2. Christian integrity cannot be separated apart from a relationship with Jesus
“because of the truth that remains in us…” (2 John 2, CSB)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” (John 15:5, CSB)
A Christian follows Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is the one who maintains the relationship. Someone has to take the initiative to make any relationship secure and true. Here, we see that the “truth” remains in us. Jesus is the one who actively maintains the relationship. Jesus enters into a relationship with me before I am born. Jesus is the Person who will deliver me to Heaven after I am dead. In between my birth and death, I join Jesus when I recognize my need for Him. Just as Jesus is the One who paid my sin debt. He is also an active partner in maintaining my relationship.
3. Christian integrity is eternal, based on the eternal nature of God Himself
“…the truth…will be with us forever.” (2 John 2, CSB)
“The Rock—his work is perfect; all his ways are just. A faithful God, without bias, he is righteous and true.” (Deuteronomy 32:4, CSB)
God is righteous and true. This is part of who He is. He has been the same from eternity past. He will continue to be this way until the future. He continues to stay true to you and me.
Who you are in Christ is more than who you are on Earth. You will remain a Christian even in eternity. A Christian, who follows Jesus, will end up with Him forever.
4. Positive relationships are an outgrowth of my continual personal relationship with Jesus
“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” (2 John 3, CSB)
Here, we see three elements that God always presents to Christians: grace, mercy, and peace. These are blessings of God.
Grace is when God gives you something you don’t deserve. Mercy is when God prevents you from getting what you do deserve. Peace is the active result of God’s effort in the Christian’s life. When you trust God, peace is the result. Notice that grace, mercy, and peace are the result of God’s balance of His truth and love.
While there is a balance, the order is important. Truth precedes love. God’s blessings, though motivated by His love, are never given without being in accord with His character. God is the God of truth. Further, the two are conjoined in this prepositional phrase, clearly indicating that neither is a separate reality from the other. There can neither be love apart from truth, nor is truth separate from love. “Truth and love describe an intellectual harmony and a moral harmony; and the two correspond with each other according to their subject matter. Love is truth in human action, and truth is love in regard to the order of things.”5
5. Christian integrity is a growth process
“I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father.” (2 John 4, CSB)
Being true to yourself, having integrity, does not mean that you are perfect. We will never be a perfect human until we reach Heaven. But we are a “work in progress” who should be making progress toward the goal of being more Jesus every day. What is that work in progress? It is walking in love. The growth that you and I should be engaged in is not knowing more facts about the Bible. We don’t learn new concepts and theologies just to make us look smarter. We don’t learn more about God. Instead, we learn more of Him. God is love and He wants us to love. This brings me to the other side of the scale that needs to be balanced: live by Christian love.
Live by Christian love – “Walking in Love” (2 John 5-6)
“So now I ask you, dear lady—not as if I were writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. This is love: that we walk according to his commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: that you walk in love.” (2 John 5–6, CSB)
The command that Jesus gave was to “love one another.” He said this clearly in the Gospel of John:
““I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”” (John 13:34–35, CSB)
Jesus clearly shows that a Christian will love other Christians. This will be the defining way that we show that we are Christians, that we follow Christ. Then in 1 John, the apostle clarifies this command:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:7–9, CSB)
In 1 John, the same writer from the Gospel of John mentions that the proof that a person knows God, and is a Christian is that they love other people. If you don’t love others, then that is proof that you don’t know Jesus.
In 2 John, the command is to love. Jesus told us to love one another as proof of being a Christian. Christian love, loving like Jesus wants me to love, proves
The balance between Christian integrity and Christian love
Christians are bound to other Christians primarily by the special bond of truth and that this is the foundation of genuine Christian love.6 The challenge is to keep Christian truth and Christian love in balance.
Truth and love are an unbeatable team, a winning combination, a dynamic duo. Truth without love makes a person harsh. But love without truth makes a person dangerous because he will allow cancers to grow and problems to take root in his life, in his family, on the job, or in the church.7 Christians need to keep the truth and love in balance to be effective.
1 Michael P. Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 389.
2 Jon Courson, A Day’s Journey: 365 Daily Meditations from the Word (Santa Ana, CA: Calvary Chapel Publishing, 2003).
3 Leadership Ministries Worldwide, Practical Illustrations: 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 2003), 29.
4 I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 60.
5 Gary W. Derickson, First, Second, and Third John, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 598.
6 James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 161.