Today’s reading at first read was a conundrum to me. It seemed to say that believers should shun non-believers. This seemed, frankly, shocking to me. It didn’t sound like something John would say, since his writings are known for his themes of love and truth. So, I had to do some digging and some thinking to get through the simple and short verses of 2 John.
As with so many of the epistles, the place to start when working through the meaning of the text is with history and context. It is easy to forget the differences between our world today and the relevancy of the epistles with the world of the early church. Although both worlds are full of danger and evil, there are, of course, substantial and obvious differences as well as similarities.
In the decades following Jesus’ death, a new type of “religious” teacher was born – the itinerant preacher. While many of these were “officially” in the service of the apostles, or the next generation of the original apostles, many of these itinerant preachers were fakes and phonies. There was literally no way to check them out since there was no phones, no internet to check their credentials. The phony preachers would come into a new Christian community and profess all kinds of inaccurate truths and blasphemies. These are the people that John is warning the new Christians about. It was too easy to fall for these 1st century scam-artists.
We certainly have modern-day scam artists and blasphemers who know how to take advantage of our time and hard earned dollars. And we are admonished to steer clear of them. But, these people are different from the lost who say things out of ignorance. The truly lost souls are not trying to manipulate you, they just don’t know any better. To these folks, I believe we are commanded to give them our love and attention. We are called to emulate Christ, to walk in truth and love.
How do we tell the difference between a genuinely lost soul and a scam artist (and, by the way, they may be one in the same person)? With prayer. God will be your guide.