The writings of St. John use very powerful metaphors to communicate their meaning. The Gospel of John uses light and darkness, truth and lies, as well as hate and love.
The letters of John also carry these metaphors. However, there is a significant difference between the Gospels and the letters. The metaphors of the Gospel were used to distinguish between the people who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and those who did not. The most frequent target of the metaphors of darkness, lying, and hatred were the Pharisees and the chief priests. The Letters aim these arrows at members of the Christian community. Sadly, within the first hundred years after Jesus’ return to the Father, the community began to splinter. A heretical sect known as the Gnostics began to separate the Christian community. The Gnostics were elitists, men and women who looked down upon their brothers and sisters for a variety of reasons.
The Gnostics emphasized personal spiritual knowledge over the orthodox teachings, traditions, and authority of the church. They divided our very existence into the spiritual life which was concerned with matters of the soul and the material life which was concerned with life in the physical world. They erroneously taught that while God created spiritual life, material or physical life was created by a malevolent lesser divinity.
The Gnostics felt that they were better than others because of their special relationship - a kind of infused knowledge based on personal experience or perception. They did not believe that they were bound by the commandments because of this special knowledge. While Jesus came to save those who did not have this personal relationship, they believed that they did not need to be saved from sin.
Despite their errors, John still refers to them as “Beloved.” In addressing them in this way, he is demonstrating that he loves them even though they are in error, even though they are walking in darkness. His example is meant to convey to all of us that we are called to love all people, especially those with whom we might disagree. We are all in need of Jesus and the grace he brought us through the mystery of the Incarnation.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator