The word of the day is “lose.” Scripture is full of instances of persons who lose something of great spiritual worth. In today’s reading of 2 John 1:1-13, the Elder writes, “Look to yourself that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” (vs. 8). With this admonition, we hear the warning that we should be on guard against losing the doctrine, that is, the teachings on which our faith rests.
What We Are In Danger of Losing
What are we in danger of losing, according to our reading? We discover the answer when we consider that the Elder warns against the deceivers that are rising up against the faithful. Their threat to believers is their denial that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (vs. 7). The declaration that they reject expresses two fundamental beliefs about the person of Jesus Christ. The first is that He is the Messiah, the One whom the Scriptures promised would come to save the world from sin and establish His everlasting Kingdom. The second is that the Son of God became human and lived on earth as Jesus the Messiah.
The Elder writes that whoever “does not abide” in these teachings is the Antichrist (vs. 7), that is, anyone who opposes God. If we submit to this Antichrist, we lose the “doctrine” of Christ. And if we lose this basic set of beliefs, we lose our relationship to both the Son of God and to the Father whom the Son reveals.
How We Can Lose the Teachings of Our Faith
How can we lose the precious understandings on which our faith is founded? Well, how do we lose things? We can lose things by fraud, as Esau did (Genesis 25:33). We can lose things by force as the man who was thrown out of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:13). We can lose things by neglect as the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:10). We can lose things by choice like the Rich Young Ruler who went away sorrowful because he did not want to give away his riches to follow Christ (Matthew 19:22). And we can lose things by careless indifference as the “goats” in the Parable of the Last Judgment did who were indifferent to the suffering of Christ in various disguises (Matthew 25:44-46).
In the case of our beliefs in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Son of God, we can let the deceivers steal them from us. They can plant contrary ideas in our minds that confuse us or replace our spiritual understanding with other notions.
Or we can lose our faith in the doctrine of the Church by neglect. We can set these teachings aside in our minds so that they fade in importance. Or other ideas and interests may grab our attention so that the matter of who Christ is loses its influence on us.
On Guard Against Loss
To guard against such a loss, the Elder says we must “look to ourselves” and protect “what we have worked for.” Our leaders have taught it and we have learned it. This training in the doctrine of the Church has taken effort on the part of our leaders and ourselves. And it is too valuable to lose now that we have learned it.
According to the Elder, “we” will receive the “full reward” of such labors—if we guard what we have been taught. The Greek word “reward” means compensation (Strong’s #3408) and when “full” modifies it, the thought is of complete recompense (Strong’s #4134). What could be more “full” and “complete” than “eternal life”? But that is our reward. The Elder writes, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (1 John 5:11). That is to say that when we “abide in,” that is, when we “trust in” Christ as Son of God and Messiah, then we “have” the Son, and having Him have eternal life in Him.
The Elder urges us, “Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching[of Christ]” (vs. 10). We might take this warning as a metaphor. The ideas that we entertain in our minds have a profound influence on our faith. The thoughts that might lead us astray from the doctrine of Christ may not overtly contradict the teachings of the faith. But they may be like a guest who moves into our home and takes over. They may crowd out and eventually displace the truths concerning Christ.
To guard against losing our faith to other perspectives, ideas, and interests, we should make sure that the Lord and His ways are continually on our minds. If constant prayer, meditation, reading of Scripture, and study of the fathers of the Church occupy our thoughts and if service to our neighbor motivates our actions, there will be no room for errant ideas and activities. Great Lent is the season that the Church has set aside for us to gain practice in these holy preoccupations. In these weeks before Lent, we have the opportunity to make plans to “look to ourselves” and how we will develop more intense habits of “setting the Lord [and His teachings] always before us” (Psalm 16:8).