Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Proper Discipleship

2 John 12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

12 Πολλὰ ἔχων ὑμῖν γράφειν οὐκ ἐβουλήθην διὰ χάρτου καὶ μέλανος, ἀλλὰ ἐλπίζω γενέσθαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ στόμα πρὸς στόμα λαλῆσαι, ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡμῶν πεπληρωμένη ᾖ.

This is the penultimate verse in this very short book. John does not want to write any more, but he wants to speak face to face. Literally, this is "mouth to mouth," so I'm pretty sure that it is an idiom. The point is that he would prefer a conversation in person over exchanging letters. He then explains his reason with a ἵνα clause. He wants to do this so that our joy πεπληρωμένη. This is a passive perfect participle. Very woodenly, this would be "having been completely filled." Obviously the ESV is more smooth.

This is a verse that I have glossed over many times as I've read this short book. I tend not to concentrate quite as hard at the end of my sections of reading, to be honest. But I think that this is an important verse for discipleship here in 2011.

We are now a digital people. I like email, but I realize that makes me a 20th century dinosaur. Texting has replaced actual cellphone conversations as the preferred way to communicate. We update our friends with 140 character tweets. We update and interact with Facebook statuses. We write blogs. These are all inherently asynchronous ways to communicate.

Obviously John did not have all of these means at his disposal. However, he did have good old fashioned paper and ink. He had the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so he could write a letter like this one under His inspiration. Yet he still preferred to come and talk to the lady face to face. That was what it would take for their joy to be complete.

Why is that? There is something different about meeting with someone face to face. You can't read body language over texting, for example. This is especially true when you start abbreviating everything. I think of this in terms of discipleship. Obviously John was in a position to disciple this lady. It would appear that face to face was the preferred mode for this.

I struggle with this because it demands my time and energy. I can write emails on my own time. But being with someone requires being with someone. It is more messy and more risky. But I can't escape the clear witness of Scripture on this. It's not as if this is the only passage either. Refer to the end of Acts 14 sometime. We need to spend time with each other if we are to grow in godliness. Are you willing?

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