And now, dear lady, 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, verse 5.
Do you think John was writing to an actual woman or to a group of people? I suppose it could go either way, though as mentioned yesterday, there is evidence (in the language used) that he was writing to a larger group. This one seems pretty cut and dried. It says “dear lady.”
Or maybe not.
I mean, when you refer to a ship, it’s usually referred to as “she” or “her” and that isn’t a literal thing. Related groups or congregations are usually called “sisters.” And, thanks to pop culture, it’s acceptable to refer to both sexes as “you guys.” John may indeed have been writing to a specific woman, or maybe not. In reality, based just on this verse, we don’t know.
Can I ask why this matters?
The answer is that, to gain meaning from the verse, it really doesn’t. To think the audience of just this one verse – indeed the whole book – must be an individual, a woman, or a group loses the main point of the verse (and the book): Jesus is asking that we love one another.
Specifically, through the apostle, Jesus is reminding us once again that His first, primary, and most important command is to love others as He loved us. We are to love God fully with all our heart, mind and soul and, when doing so, we find that, to love God, we must love others. It’s almost a compulsion, as if God has given us something too good to hold on to. It’s so good that we feel driven to share it. Where it gives God and us great comfort to see those we love happy, that happiness comes first from loving them. That seems pretty simple; again, cut and dried, right?
If it’s so simple, why do we fail to get along more than we agree? Why do we look for offenses where none were intended? Why do we hold on to grudges, enviously compare ourselves and find inadequacies, or plot evil against others who mean us no evil in return? Why do we play favorites, break promises, stray from the heart outward, or curse when we are blessed? You know the answer.
So did Jesus and His friend John. Which is why he implores us at the end of this verse to love each other. When we lose sight of this simple request, we invite sin to reign. When we invite sin into our lives, it matters even less whether we’re alone or part of a group. As long as sin pre-dominates, love can get squeezed out.
Lord, love, forgive, and strengthen me to love others the way You love me.