I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
Truth is essential. However, at times the mandate to hold the truth and proclaim the truth comes at the expense of another command of Christ: love. The tango between truth and love is a delicate dance. When the movement between the two is done poorly, toes are stepped on and people are left feeling awkward and ashamed; but when done well, the beauty of interaction leaves all involved enthralled by the security of truth and the comfort of love.
John wrote his second epistle to establish a basic truth in the hearts of those he loved. They must hold to the truth. They must defend it at all cost. They must use it as a lens by which the facts of life could be properly perceived. They must not hurry to accept all things as truth, rather, judgingly and discerningly they must weigh things against truth to determine if they would be influenced by them.
But becoming expert discerners does not mean that genuine care and compassion for others would not be allowed. Rather, John encourages that the discerning, truth-holding followers of Jesus hold the truth in love. Not as “little bastions of truth” to themselves, but as ambassadors of truth sacrificing their time and needs lovingly for those around them so that the gospel could be proclaimed and God could be glorified. Instead of being a makeshift Inquisition who questioningly destroys all opportunity of relationship and friendship with the unbelieving, the true follower of Jesus lovingly engages those who are different with the truth and with a heart of desire to see those they engage liberated by that truth.
Truth does not discourage love. Love does not discourage truth. Rather in a fluid, complementing sense, love will only tell the truth, and sharing truth is the best way to love. As they glide across the ballroom floor of our lives, intertwined and swaying through every relationship and interaction, truth and love play out the perfect portrait of Jesus. We become more like Him when our lives are dominated by both of these. Both are fundamental to healthy Christian obedience. While in solitude they endanger the believer, together, the kingdom of Christ will advance, and God will be magnified. Now, share the truth, in love.
Food For Thought: What are the two things that are essential to healthy Christian growth and gospel witness?