2 John is a tiny book of the Bible–1 chapter, 13 verses–that we often overlook. But as I wrote it out this week, one verse in particular struck me.
Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. –2 John 1:5
Why did that verse stand out? The “lady” John refers to in this short epistle is his way of addressing the church, the bride of Christ. My husband and I often dialogue about the church and its issues. Lately we’ve been discussing the form the church takes. Its traditions. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But as I’ve wrestled with such questions over the years, I become more convinced that the issues in the church run far deeper than structure and liturgy or even passion for Jesus. The issue is deep in the heart. Literally. The issue is love. Because here’s the thing: the church is people. And no matter the form “church” takes, people are not perfect. Thus, nothing we impose (or don’t impose) on our gatherings will be perfect. Ever. Until we are in heaven with Jesus.
Reading John’s admonishment reminded me again that so many of our problems in the church today–whatever form that church takes–would be diminished if we simply loved one another, as Jesus commanded. I think sometimes we love those who don’t yet know Christ more than we do our brothers and sisters in Christ. Once we become connected to each other as the church, we tend to leave our love at the door and bring in judgment instead, the very thing Paul warns us against in Romans 14.
John’s words in his letter to the church reflect directly back to his gospel, to Jesus’ words recorded by his pen.
Jesus was speaking to His disciples about His disciples. He says the world will not know us as Christians by our love for them (though yes, we should love them, as the good Samaritan did); they will know us as Christians by our love for each other, for those who already call themselves children of God. I know I am guilty of not loving my brothers and sisters in Christ. Are you?
Oh, that we could see and live the truth of love every day!