It’s Valentine’s Day! So what better than to read a love letter. Even better, this is a coded love letter from a secret writer to a secret recipient!
John is believed to be the author of this letter as the writings of early church fathers tend to confirm. We don’t know who “the lady” is though, but many scholars believe that John was not writing to an individual person but, in fact, to a church, and the children he mentions are the members of the church – the believers.
Perhaps John was just playing with words, or maybe this subterfuge was deliberate, to prevent any trouble if the letter were to fall into the wrong hands. This was a time when persecution of Christians was common. Insiders would have understood who the letter was from and for, but any outsider reading it would not have been so sure.
We can call the letter a love letter, because John clearly loved the church he was writing to, and so did many others. And not only does John write with love, he writes about love.
He effectively says that it is the truth that makes love possible. All those who are in the truth love the people of this church. The truth is so important that John writes at length about guarding it, and not letting any who would speak lies and deceit into the body of believers. So we all need to guard the truth, make sure we are immersed in the scriptures so that we know the truth within them and can recognise any falsehood if we see it.
Without the truth, love becomes sentiment – nothing more than a paper heart. With the truth, we are able to truly love and, out of that love, guide others to the truth.
Without love, truth can become judgemental, harsh, unfeeling. Nobody wants to hear the truth spoken without love, and it will rarely have a good effect if we do. Love and truth must go hand in hand.
May we be people who know and speak the truth, out of hearts overflowing with the love of God.