2 John 1–3 (NKJV)
1 The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
The Apostle John wrote his second epistle to a Christian congregation whom he poetically calls “the elect lady.” His words to the congregation are in many respects a summary of his first epistle and help us to identify the author of both letters as the same man. In these first few verses John highlights his two primary concerns for this congregation – truth and love.
He loves this congregation “in truth” together with all those who have known “the truth” – because “the truth” abides in us and will be with us forever. Doctrine, John insists, accurate teaching about the Person and Work of Christ, is essential to the Christian faith.
But so too is love. John “loves” the elect lady and her children and prays that God would pour out “grace, mercy, and peace” upon them. Love too is essential to the Christian faith.
Unfortunately many have attempted to pit these two virtues against one another. On the one hand we have churches that are so committed to “truth” that they treat others mercilessly and harshly, failing to love them as they have been loved. On the other hand, we have churches that are so committed to “love” that they refuse to stand for the truth, refuse to stand for what is good and right.
But truth and love are not competitors – together the two shape and mould biblical wisdom as we see them displayed in our Lord Jesus. Truth and love are like the twin components of bones and flesh. Truth by itself is like a skeleton without flesh – stark, frightening, lifeless. Love by itself is like flesh without a skeleton – a big blob of goo with no structure. But together the two unite to form the living body of Christ.
So this is the challenge for us as a body of believers – to unite love and truth so that we be a light to the world and embody in our congregation the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. But often we pit one against the other – and so let us confess our distortion and pray that God would enable us to experience His grace, mercy, and peace in truth and in love.