The old joke used to be that anyone could throw on a bathrobe, walk the beaches of California, and utter a few incomprehensible sayings that seemed to have deeper meaning to start a new religion. Perhaps that’s being unfair to Californians, but when the joke first began, it seemed that every new religious fad started in California. That type of activity isn’t new, though. In ancient Greece, before the time of Christ even, philosophers would go from town to town and teach, hoping to gain some income from the townspeople. If their message was good enough, or had a unique quality about it, people would support them. The method has evolved through the ages, but the idea is the same: people seeking support find ways to reach people who will give support.
Now, you see “traveling” philosophers or purveyors of religious opinions finding a new audience: internet users. No longer do they have to travel from town to town. No longer do they have to pay for airtime on the radio or the television. Now, they can set up a Youtube channel and a gofundme account and make a living that way. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, though, people who claimed to be proclaiming the gospel had to do things the old-fashioned way. They would travel from town to town hoping to find someone who would give them lodging and a way to proclaim their message and put some coins in their purses. John reminded the church at Ephesus that anyone who came to proclaim the gospel needed to make love of the brothers (and sisters) a main part of their message. In fact, he told them to shun anyone who didn’t include that in their message. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.” (2 John 1:10-11)
It would be interesting to know what some of these messages were. We get hints from the New Testament, but we don’t have actual writings that I’ve seen. In this letter of John we see that false teachers were proclaiming that Jesus didn’t really come in the flesh, but that He came as God alone. This made the resurrection story moot because, how can you kill God? A lot of other false teachings made their way into the church back in those days, often because the resurrection was hard to imagine. So people tried to hold to the teachings of Jesus without the resurrection, not understanding that the resurrection must be the central focus of Christianity for many reasons. One of the greatest reasons is that it shows God’s love for us, and compels us to love each other. It tells us that the penalty for sin was paid, which meant that a lot of the frightening preaching where preachers emphasized how terrible all the people were didn’t make sense. God told us that we were so terrible that we needed this sacrifice, but He loved us so much that Jesus died on the cross, and rose from the dead for us.
John was so vehement against these folks that he said not even to welcome them into the house or you shared in their wicked work. I’m not sure what that means today. Since everything is internet based though, I would assume that we share in that wicked work when we share the work of someone who perverts the gospel, even when we share it to show how wrong they are. We must make our message one of love. It begins with God’s love because He loved us first, even before we realized we needed His love. Then it continues with our love for each other. It’s really a simple proposition that I think John would agree with. We are to show God’s love to people whom God loves, and we can hate those whom God hates – which means there’s no one left to hate. In other words, show God’s love to all people.
Oh Lord, let my life reflect the love You have for others.