2 John 1-6
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, 2because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: 3Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love. 4I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father.
5But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. 6And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.
2 John is clearly a letter – it has all the parts of a letter: an introduction (v. 1-3), salutation (v.1), thanksgiving (v.4), and farewell (v.13). Although it was at one time connected by many with 1 John, today some scholars do not think it is the same author, but another member of the Johannine community, one who is identified as “the elder”. The letter was written sometime around 90 – 100 CE, and “Elder” was likely a title within the church community by then. I consulted two commentaries – one says he is not the same as the author of either the Gospel of John or the first letter; the other says that language similarities suggest the same author. Be that as it may, this is another of those things we just do not know. Still, there is something we can learn from this short letter.
He writes to the “elect lady and her children” – now, personally, I always thought this was a personal letter from an elder in the church to a woman he knew and her family. Both commentaries tell me I am wrong on this score. “Elect lady and her children” refers to another church and the community of the church. “The elder” holds a position of status in one church, but is writing to a sister church, where his authority is not as recognized.
The themes of truth and love arise again, as they did in the Gospel and in 1 John. The author writes to those whom he and others in the church know in the truth – a truth that lives within all of them – The Grace, mercy, and peace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He writes in truth and love – holding both together.
He is overjoyed to find “some of her children” walking in the truth. The author’s joy is conditional and cautious. Some of the congregation is following the way of truth that was taught – the “some” suggests that others are not. Before he will get to that, however, he reminds them that he is writing about the same commandment they have had from the beginning, that they should love one another. But loving means more than sentimentality, loving means walking according to the commandments of Jesus, as they heard from the beginning.
Truth and love must be held together – there are basic truths to what we believe, but truth without love is harsh and cold. We seek to tell the story of Jesus Christ in a way that recognizes the truth while also loving those with whom we share it.