Summary: Your love has limits.
If you do not want something read, do not write it on a postcard.
Several years back a friend of mine pastored in a small, rural town in Oklahoma. Because he did not have a church secretary, he personally went to the Post Office to get his mail where Post master was not a member of his church. On the post-card I requested that my friend send me his resume, because there was a church I wanted to recommend him for consideration as pastor. We were together shortly after that, and he told me several people had asked him if he were moving.
I began thinking about that. What else does a post-master in a small, rural town have to do during the day? Think about how fun it would be at break time to catch up on the latest news by reading other people’s post-cards. Before email we used to get post-cards telling us our package had arrived at Sears. Other members of the family would read the card and ask you what you ordered. If you don’t want something read, don’t write it on a postcard. (This is said in jest.)
If you do not want something read, do not write on a postcard.
There are four one chapter letters in the New Testament, which are, funnily, some of the least read books of the Bible. Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude could be called post card epistles. They are meant to be read. 2nd John is less than three hundred words in the original language and holds an important word for the church. Its message is contemporary.
This quarter in Sunday school we have a lesson that glances at this book, but let us take a Sunday to look at its message. Its message supports 1 John.
Looking over John’s shoulder, we read:
(1) The Elder:
To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth—and not only I, but also all who have come to know the truth— (2) because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever.
(3) 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.
(4) I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father. (5) So now I urge you, lady—not as if I were writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. (6) And this is love: that we walk according to His commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: you must walk in love.
(7) Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. (8) Watch yourselves so that you don't lose what we have worked for, but you may receive a full reward. (9) Anyone who does not remain in the teaching about Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. (10) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don't say, "Welcome," to him; (11) for the one who says, "Welcome," to him shares in his evil works.
(12) Though I have many things to write to you, I don't want to do so with paper and ink. Instead, I hope to be with you and talk face to face so that our joy may be complete.
(13) The children of your elect sister send you greetings.
On the whole, conservative scholarship identifies this elder with the apostle John. Who was “the elect lady”? Some believe she was a real person. Others think John was referring to the church. Neither opinion alters the message of the letter.
The word “elder” is our word “presbytery” or “Presbyterian.” Originally the word meant an older man. Later it came to refer to a person with a high office in the church; he oversaw some work. For us, it refers to the pastor, and describes one of his responsibilities: the pastor is to administrate, or oversee, the church’s effort to serve Christ. In every organization of people someone has to lead or nothing gets done. For example, the Lord looks to the husband to be responsible for the well-being and productiveness of the family. If no one is in charge a family becomes chaotic. God gave this supervisory role over the church to the pastor.
First John was written to believers in danger of following false teachers. The believers addressed in 2 John seem to be facing the same temptation. John is known as the “apostle of love.” He frequently admonishes us to love one another, but this love must be discerning. It is not naïve or unthinking: it’s dangerous to float through life with an undiscerning love. We are to have fellowship with God. We are to fellowship with other believers, but we are not to have fellowship with false teachers. Your love is to have limits. For some reason that does not sound right; let us unpack 2 John to understand what John means by limits on our love.