“In Truth and Love”


1The 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.

“…in truth and love.” (v.3)

In his second letter to his churches, John the Pastor has very little to say. This is the second shortest epistle (letter) in the New Testament (second only to John’s third letter), kept concise and clear. I am amazed that John has distilled his pastoral exhortation to two key points: truth and love.

What is more amazing to me is that John does not see truth and love in tension. I have been taught and trained that “telling the truth in love” is an impossible ideal. Instead, I have to choose one over or against the other. I can stand for truth, but I will hurt others; I can love others, but I will sacrifice the truth. For John, though, Jesus is both truth and love: the two are paired, shared gestures of God toward us in his Son.

He writes, “to the elect lady…whom I love in the truth” (v.1). John writes that “all who know the truth” love her also, “because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever” (vv.1-2). Truth motivates and compels us to love. The question remains then: “Which truth?”.

The only truth that could teach us to love and would motivate us to love, is the Truth, Jesus Christ. My theological education teaches me this has to be the right answer, but my overly academic mind rebels, demanding a more complex answer. After all, isn’t Jesus always the simplistic, “Sunday School” answer? But if my following Jesus on his the Lenten Journey to the cross has taught me anything, it’s that Jesus is anything but simplistic, anything if not complex. And then Easter morning opens with Jesus’ resurrection, which seals his radical complexity for all time.

Because Jesus is both the Truth and the Love, John sees God’s command to “[walk] in the truth” (v.4) to be part of, or partnered with, His command to “love one another” (v.5). My call to learn from Jesus and respond in faith does not end at the cross, precisely because Jesus does not end at the cross. At the empty tomb, my call is renewed and revitalized along with Christ’s life. If Christ is really alive, and I am really made a part of him, then truth and love both will have to be part of my discipleship.

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