Three Short Letters.
“I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.”
2 John 5 (NIV)
Like the minor prophets of the Old Testament, the three final letters of the New Testament are among the least read books of the Bible. They are short (so people think they’re unimportant), and their subject matter is redundant (hence… unimportant). As a yearlong reader of the Bible, I wonder about why these were included at all.
I give you three mini-entries about these three peculiar books, taking my best stab at why they exist in the first place.
John’s second letter is addressed to an unnamed woman who he is encouraging in faith. We get a few mentions of antichrists (who, by the way, is every non-Christian) and reminders about love. And then, John drops this little number:
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them.” (2 John 10)
This seems to be the only new information that John is bringing to the conversation. We have heard several times now that Christians should not mingle around with Pagans, but on the other hand, the Bible has made it pretty damn clear that hospitality is an important part of love. It seems that John is adding a caveat to the latter – that we should not be hospitable to non-believers. Or maybe he means those who actively campaign against God – I don’t know.
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing…” (3 John 9 – 10)
Ironically, John complains about an inhospitable Christian in his third letter. By the sound of it, there is a guy named Diotrephes who refuses to welcome John into his church. So this letter acts as a warning. John is coming anyway, and he is not happy. He says he will “call attention” to what this wayward elder is doing.
My best guess? This letter is about both inhospitality and sin within the church. John is certainly eager to call out Diotrephes in a public way, chastising him in the name of God.
Oh, and speaking of sin…
“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 22 – 23)
Ah, so that’s where the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” comes from. “Show mercy, mixed with fear.” That’s a fascinating concept.
I also find it interesting that Jude delineates between a person who is in doubt and “others.” There are believers and non-believers, and then there are those in a faith purgatory. And those people deserve all of our mercy.
But to the “others,” they deserve 50% fear.
“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (9)
Archangel Michael and the devil in a fight over the body of Moses? HOW is that the only mention of this in the Bible? We got three books of outdated rules in the Torah and someone this managed to squeeze by unmentioned?
On Monday… we move into the final book. Two weeks left!