Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person. Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.
It’s hardly surprising that the early Christians were victims of false and confused messages spread by the ‘many deceivers’ whom John mentions here. After all Christianity was new and the message of love, and a Kingdom where everyone looked after everyone else, was utterly counter-cultural. It was fertile ground for the heretics who spread inaccurate stories about the new religion. Maybe I’m being generous by suggesting the heretics thought what they said was indeed true Christianity.
Perhaps more surprising is that little has changed. In the 21st Century there are people who speak as Christians and claim that their faith prevents them from engaging with sections of society, that it means they condemn other people and lifestyles, or makes them behave in certain ways. They often preface their views by stating that they speak on behalf of Christianity. The difficult bit for me, is that they believe what they say.
John is very clear in this passage; we must not let these people into the house, which seems quite harsh to us today. However, in the 1st Century missionaries relied hand-to-mouth for a living, on the hospitality of Christians; and if as a Christian you hosted a missionary, it indicated that you shared that missionary’s views. Hence in a culture where hospitality was crucial, John said don’t offer anything!
John was urging the early Christians to speak out and act against people who preached anything other than God’s love. He encouraged people to love and care for one another as Christ did before.
For 21st Century disciples, the message of John’s second letter is still spot-on: we must speak out against those who say Jesus’s love is exclusive of any sections of society, and most of all, we must share that message of a Kingdom of love – with everyone. No exceptions.
we know your love is all-encompassing
and we pray that you will walk with us
sharing the times when we struggle
to stand up for what we know to be right.
Help us Lord, to spread the message
of your love for everyone
Linda Rayner – Elder at Bramhall URC, URC Coordinator for Fresh Expressions (fx) and fx Missioner at Cheadle Hulme Methodist.