Summary: There are times when Christians can be inhospitable towards those who are seeking to deceive or cause us to lose enthusiasm for eternity. Who are you accepting and giving credibility to when it comes to directing your spiritual life?

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2 John 1-13

"Sometimes Be Inhospitable”

Let’s open our Bible to the letter of 2 John.

It is a short letter

… 315 words in the NIV translation.

… 245 in the original Greek

1 The elder,

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 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. 6 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.

7 I say this because 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. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 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. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

12 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.

13 The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings.

As a church we have been making our way systematically through the letters of John and, for those of us who have been here, there would be much in this letter that we are familiar with.

Knowing the truth … especially the key truth that Jesus is God in the flesh.

Following the command to walk in the love … the sacrificial “agape” love of Jesus.

The warning against deceivers and antichrists.

John has spoken about all of this before. However, in this letter, John takes all of these teachings and applies them to a very specific situation.

10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

What teaching can’t the visitors bring?

They can’t say the Jesus is not God in the flesh. They can’t deny that Jesus is the Son of God and part of the Trinity.

In our age religions which deny the Trinity include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.

Even Jews deny the Trinity … and so do atheists.

So, does that mean we can’t invite our atheist family member into our home for a meal? What about inviting a Jew over to have an honest discussion about Christianity? Should we refuse to have a Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist exchange student at our place?

Is that what John is saying?

And if we are not able to be hospitable to people who can’t say that Jesus has come in the flesh … well how do we build friendships with them? Or share the gospel with them?

Even as I ask these questions you know that John is not saying that we need to be inhospitable to everyone who doesn’t affirm the deity of Jesus.

We are called to be in the world, not of the world.

We are called to be salt and light.

We are called to love our enemies.

So that is not what John is talking about.

However, it is clear that John is placing some sort of limitation or boundary around offering hospitality to anyone and everyone.

So how do we put the teaching of this Scripture in place?

Well, where we need to start is with the historical situation which John is addressing.

In John’s day there were many itinerant teachers, philosophers and religious leaders. These people would go from city to city seeking to get support for their particular teaching. It was a method they used to receive an income, but it was also a method which required them to find a hospitable welcome from someone in the town.

You might say, “Well why didn’t these people just go to the local inn?” There were inns available, but they were seedy and had very doubtful reputations. A person who stayed in an inn was likely to be treated with suspicion and very much remained a stranger. So itinerant preachers didn’t stay in inns.

But it wasn’t just the problem with the inn. Being offered hospitality in a home was related to the issue of being accepted because the meaning of showing hospitality was very different in those days.

In those days most people didn’t go far from their towns, and villages. Also, in those days most towns and villages were not large. In many places the residents had a socially comfortable existence where they basically knew everyone. So when a stranger walked into town they were almost treated as a non-person. As a non-person they had no standing in law or custom, they were really on their own.

So the stranger would look for a local person who would be their patron. Someone who would give then hospitality so they could be transformed from stranger to guest … to go from outsider to being part of the community. Offering hospitality meant that you would be vouching for the traveller enabling them to have gain the protection of the local laws, or the local religious groups.

There was a real sense where, when you offered hospitality you were aligning yourself with the teaching and the character and the philosophy of the stranger-now-guest. You were saying, my guest is a reflection of me.

You can see this social situation happening in Acts 17.

When Paul goes to Thessalonica he stays at Jason’s home. As a result of Paul’s preaching

… I’m reading now from Acts 17:5-7

5 Other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”

Jason is completely identified with the teaching and philosophy of Paul.

That is how it worked socially.

So you can imagine the issues that might arise if you were a Christian. An itinerant walks into town and begins to preach a message which obviously has religious content. At the end of the day he is looking for a place to stay in the town and, because you are known to be a religious person, your name and address is suggested.

What do you do?

In the case of 2 John the situation is even more complicated. Because the people who are coming to the door aren’t just random itinerant preachers who are strangers – these are people who, in the past, have had a personal connection.

1 John 2:18-19

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

In 2 John he talks about deceivers and antichrist. It is the same group of people.

They were part of us, and now they are not.

They believed what we believed, but now they do not.

These people … these are the ones who are now coming to your home and asking for hospitality.

They have a prior relationship.

They want you to vouch for them and give them credibility.

They are seeking a home base for their deceptive teaching.

John says – for these people – don’t welcome them into your home and give them credibility, because if you do you also are participating in their evil.

When we understand this historical and cultural context we realise that John is focussing on a very specific area of Christian living and application.

John is not giving a blanket “no” to hospitality. John has a very specific application in mind. By looking at the cultural and historical background we can see how the original readers would have put these verses into practise.

But what about us today?

When hospitality has a much different meaning.

And where it is rare for itinerant preachers to knock on our door and ask us to put them up for a while.

The application won’t be “who are we inviting for dinner?” … rather the application will be “who are we accepting and giving credibility to when it comes to directing our spiritual life?”

Who are we accepting and giving credibility to when it comes to directing our spiritual life?

In that area … when it comes to the sources of spiritual input … we need to be discerning and there will be times when we draw a line in the sand and say “no”.

So how do we know when to draw the line?

Have a look at 2 John 7.

7 I say this because 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.

1 John 7

That is a boundary marker … a boundary that focusses on motive. Is the motive of people who want to seek spiritual credibility driven them wanting to deliberately deceive? The same word “deceive” is used in Scripture for the word “imposter”

Is their motive to impose their “truth” … into my spiritual life? To impose and deceitfully set the direction of my spiritual thinking?

Godly, biblical, sincere, truthful and honest spiritual teachers never need to impose their teaching. Never should they say, or give then impression of, “look at me and think my way because I know more then you.” Always Godly biblical, sincere truthful teachers will point to the Scriptures and say “Let’s see what the Word of God says.”

So if your atheist uncle, who you really love, says things like, “We think differently about spiritual matters, but you believe what you believe.” Well keep inviting him over – you never know.

Actually we do know – how many atheist uncles and aunties have become Christians because of conversations which their nieces and nephews.

But when your atheist uncle says, we can’t be family unless you give away this Jesus rubbish … well now it is time to think about being inhospitable and putting in some boundaries.

That is a boundary. People who have a motive of deceit and are seeking to impose. There is another boundary

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

2 John 8

This boundary is one that requires us to be discerning about long-term outcomes. What have “we” … the apostles, the evangelists, the ones who bring the Gospel, the witnesses … what have “we” worked for?

We have worked to share a message which brings people to a point where they know the truth – the only truth – which will bring anyone into eternity.

The “we” is that person, or perhaps a number of people, or a Christian community, which were involved encouraging you in that faith journey.

But … for all of us this will be true … but there will be those in your life who long term objective is to do the opposite.

And they actually might not even know that is what they are doing.

We can have contacts … even great friendships … with people from all sorts of religions. And we can have contacts … even great friendships … with people who think differently to us about moral issues, and ethical issues. We eat with them and give them time.

We can do all of that, and still have a growing excitement and enthusiasm for the faith and our eternal life.

What we are looking for here is for the person or people who subtly seek to extinguish the flame.

Those are not the people we need to be cautious of.

The one who we meet regularly for coffee, and through that connection slowly we are drawn more into their world and away from the faith.

The couple who take more and more of our time – and who become a continual cause of us neglecting our fellowship with believers.

That person on our sports team who gets us more and more involved in sport commitment – which gives us less and less involvement in faith commitment.

Often it is going to be very subtle … over time. But ultimately there is in this world those who consciously or unconsciously have an agenda to cause us to lose what we have worked for. In 1 John 2:26 John writes about the antichrists John says of their agenda

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.

Who are we accepting and giving credibility to when it comes to directing our spiritual life?

Are there people in your life who are seeking to influence us by deceitfully imposing their spiritual agenda onto our lives?

You can put in a boundary of not being hospitable.

Are there people in your life who are causing you to lose – maybe quite subtly causing you to lose – the enthusiasm you have for eternal life?

You can put in a boundary of not being hospitable.

As difficult as that might be such actions are necessary so as we believe in the name of the Son of God we may know that we have eternal life.