Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Elect Lady and her Children

2 John 1:1-2 (ESV)
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, [2] because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

We are entering on some of the most neglected books of the Bible. They are so short that rather than read them most pass right by them.
John identifies himself as the “elder” the presbyter, a word synonymous with the office that has come to be known as that of pastor. He was an apostle, but the pastoral office is the continuation of the apostolic office. To be sure pastors are not apostles. But the apostles were the first pastors.
John the pastor writes to a woman, a called lady, a lady who is elect and her children. Now here is where it gets a bit funny. It occurs to me that if I hadn’t sold my set of “Lenski” for a case of beer in Seminary during a moment of protest, I might actually have a commentary on 2 John somewhere in my library to at least compare. The 1 paragraph note I have in my Bible concerning the origin and meaning of 2 John says he is writing to an actual woman. And I am at a loss to contradict it. Yet I can’t get past the notion that he is addressing the Church, the bride of Christ, perhaps even one local congregation, and that the children are those that have come to faith through her work. My Greek cheater book, has a not that indicates this to be what John is getting at. (Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, a book worth its weight in gold, but available for much cheaper, buy it and use it, if you are a pastor reading this. The ISBN is 88-7653-588-8. My copy is now falling apart after 10 years? It helped me through seminary too.)
There is no substitute in evangelism than the local congregation in bringing people to faith. So often the local congregation as an evangelism effort in the community is overlooked. Just the fact that there is a congregation of Christians who care enough about the community to put up a church, and call a pastor so that they and the community have a regular opportunity to hear the gospel is a testimony in itself to the community of the importance of faith. Church buildings, as expensive, and often underused as they are should not be overlooked in their testimony to the surrounding community of the faith of those who worship there. But here John addresses the congregation as a woman, the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I but all who know the truth.
The Christian has a love for the church, and the local congregation, and faithful congregations everywhere. The church should not be disparaged. Those who know the truth, love the truth, and this love drives them to hear it, and to love the church. Oh in it’s outward manifestation where the weat and tares are sown together there are times when we might not be too proud of what someone in our congregation or church body has done. We may not even be happy with what the church as a whole as done. The church is made up of saints and sinners who must be in constant repentance, even as they live in the forgiveness of Christ by virtue of our election in baptism.
Too often, I hear today supposed Christians despising the church. It is overdone and not becoming. They think they can live in the faith without the church. Perhaps, though I begin to wonder about the faith of someone who refuses to come to church and be with other Christians on Sunday, to help the community spread the faith. And don’t blame the pastor when your children leave the church, marry someone of another faith etc. when you have not darkened the door through their whole childhood finding any excuse not to come.
Those who know the truth love the truth, and love the Bride of the Truth, their very own mother in the faith. They support it where they can. And believe it or not, simply attending is support. Getting up and showing up on Sunday morning is support in itself. It could even be considered an act of evangelism, it does encourage visitors, when they see a full congregation on Sunday morning. But more than all that, it is for your own faith that it would be fed, nourished and strengthened. It shouldn’t be a matter of law, but of love which fulfills law. Of course for that to take place the pastor has to preach the gospel that gives birth to love even as the church gives birth to believers.
There is no church where the voice of the shepherd is not heard. There is no church where the forgiveness of sins in the death and resurrection of Christ is not heard. There is no Church where the Gospel is not proclaimed, and the sacraments are not administered according to Christ's institution

1 comment:

Brigitte said...

The Lutheran Study Bible introduction has:

"The church as family. Some expressions in John's Letters have confused interpreters. For example, when John refers to his readers as "children"..., some have read this as an indication that he wrote the Letters when he was old. This is to miss John's point about his relationship with the members of the congregations. It is not primarily an issue of age. John speaks to his readers as members of his family, the household of faith, for which he is a leader ("elder" or parent"). The same emphasis on relationships is shown in descriptions of the churches as "the elect lady and her children" and "children of your elect sister". Using family relationships to describe congregational relationships is characteristic of the Semitic culture from which the churches fist sprang."

All this reminds me of the emphasis Harrison makes in the chapter on Baptism, how it is "we" who are baptized "together" into Christ. (Romans 6).