Any Christian is our brother or sister if they are born again. Race doesn’t matter—neither does nationality or station in life. That’s what we learn in 1 John and what continues to be taught from another angle in John's second and third letters.
The same John who walked with Christ in the Gospels wrote this letter near the end of his life. We call him the apostle of love; the Lord Jesus called him a “son of thunder” (Mark 3:17). In this letter, we can add a little lightning to that thunder, for he makes the startling statement that you either love the brethren or you must not be a child of God.
This epistle is a personal letter John wrote to “the elect lady,” yet it easily applies to the whole family of God. Apparently, a Christian lady or a local church was extending hospitality to those who claimed to be Christians, yet they denied Jesus was God and other great truths of the Bible. John writes to warn against supporting such folk.
The theme of this letter is: “For truth’s sake.” When truth and love come into conflict, truth has top priority. It’s worth fighting for. “Truth” applies to the basic facts of the Bible, and of essential importance is the deity of Christ and His work on the cross for us. If you agree on these essentials, you can disagree on nonessentials. If a brother stands true on the inspiration of the Scriptures, he stands true on the deity of Christ and on the fact that Christ died for us. If they can do that, they’re your brother or sister in Christ.
But what about the lost sinner who is not in the family of God? Are we to love him? Well, we’re told: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Follow carefully now. We are to love people to the extent of taking the gospel to them. In the Old Testament book of Jonah, we see that Jonah didn’t love the Ninevites, but God said, “Since I love them and they have turned to Me, Jonah, I want you to love them also.” This is what our relationship with a lost world should look like. We’re asked to love people enough to take them the gospel. We are to love them in that sense because God loves them.
What should be our relationship to false teachers? Don’t fall into the “love everyone” trap that’s making the circuit today. John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). Our love’s expression is to take the gospel to them.
John’s emphasis in his first epistle is on love, but in this second epistle, it’s truth. When truth and love conflict, truth must prevail. The so-called apostle of love shocks us from our sentimental complacency and the sloppy notion of love and calls us to stand for truth.
Love can be expressed only within the bounds and context of truth that Scripture sets. John says, “I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth.” “Walking in truth” describes the manner of your life, walking in obedience to the Father’s commands. Not only is truth essential, but living out of the truth is essential, and the best place to do that is within the family of God. Too often, the pendulum swings deep in truth, but it also needs to swing wide with love. Many churches have built a reputation for being of sound doctrine. Now they need a reputation for loving the brethren.
Guard the family. While you walk in God’s truth, walk in God’s love.