There has been much discussion on whether John is writing to a particular person or to a local church in his 2nd epistle. He begins by talking about his love for them and then adds that he is not alone in his love for them. “This love is shared by ‘all who know the truth’ (πάντες οἱ ἐγνωκότες τὴν ἀλήθειαν); and such an assertion is a further indication that the elder is here addressing a church, and not an individual.”[1] The truth John is writing about is one that abides in both John and his readers and will remain with “us” he says forever. 2 John 1:2-3 says that his love for them is “Because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:  Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.”

Grace, mercy, and peace all come from God and Jesus. We experience them from God in “truth and in love.” These two concepts: truth and love are essential in any truly loving relationship. Tim Keller wrote, “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.”[2] The mood in our secular world reverses the truth in a way to demean the value of truth. In 1 John 4:7-8, we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Yes, God is love, but love is not God. The tendency today is to love everyone at all times with no concern for the truth. We need both to build and affirm healthy relationships.

This is not easy to do in our society. It’s easy for us to be truthful and loving with those close to us and those who agree with us. It’s more difficult to hold on to love amid strong controversy. I’m always leaning toward one and away from the other. It’s extremely difficult to keep them in balance. This is especially true in our sexually permissive culture. A Focus on the family article added, “People of faith too often default to one of the polar extremes: downplaying unpopular teachings of Scripture to avoid offence (love without truth) or else doubling down on their convictions with little regard for the feelings of others (truth without love).” Grace and peace are two commendations that most of the writers of the New Testament epistles send to their readers. In Paul’s letters, he adds a third one when he writes to Timothy. That is “mercy.” John includes that third blessing of mercy also in his 2nd epistle. God’s grace comes to us when we confess the truth of our sinfulness. Sin is living a life contrary to God’s revealed truth. We can only receive Grace from God when we acknowledge sin. Mercy comes from God once we acknowledge our sins and accept our need for God’s grace. He forgives us and doesn’t give us what we deserve. That’s mercy. Peace then will follow. When we acknowledge sin and turn to Christ we get Grace. When we confess, we get mercy in that God does not give us what we deserve. Peace with God follows.

[1] Smalley, Stephen S. 1984. 1, 2, 3 John. Vol. 51. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.