In the opening verse, the author of this letter names himself as “John the Elder”. Some scholars think that this letter, along with 1 John, the Gospel of John, 3 John, and Revelation, were all written by the Apostle John, the disciple of Jesus, and one of the sons of Zebedee. Other scholars tend to think that 2 John, and maybe all of the above-mentioned books, were written by one or more of a group of disciples that grew up around the Apostle John. This group is often referred to as the Johannine community.
Whatever the truth may be about the authorship of this letter, the Early Church thought it important enough to include this brief bit of correspondence in the canon of the New Testament. The question is: why? Why include this letter when it repeats, however briefly, some of the same themes as those which appear in 1 John, themes like truth and love? I think part of the answer may be conveyed in the following story….
A mutual friend used to work on the staff of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland when Richard C. Halverson was the senior pastor. Halverson was a friend of my father and a great preacher as well as a great man. After his service in Bethesda, Halverson became the Chaplain of the United States Senate. However, my friend who worked on the staff at Fourth Pres once recounted to me the story of Halverson preaching the best sermon he had ever heard on the subject of love. The congregation at Fourth Pres raved about it every day the following week. The strange thing was that when Halverson began his sermon the next Sunday, my friend thought it sounded unusually like his sermon of the previous week. As the sermon went on, my friend realized that Halverson was preaching the exact same sermon, word for word, just as he had delivered it the week before. The congregation sat through the entire message, wrapped in an awkward silence. Afterwards, my friend got up the gumption to ask Halverson: “Why in the world did you preach the exact same sermon all over again?” Halverson’s brief response was: “As soon as they start living it, I will stop preaching it.”
Whoa! “Love one another.” It is a simple message, but a hard one to live out. Perhaps that is why the Early Church thought it important to include John’s repeat of 1 John that is contained in 2 John.