To translate the Johannine epistles (1, 2, & 3 John in the Bible) is to be adrift in a sea of love and antichrists. You get the sense that the community receiving these letters is tragically torn and needs the stern reminding of this elder to remember who they are and to learn how to live together. And so the elder, (Jesus’s beloved disciple John, by tradition), recalls them again and again to obedience to the central command: love one another.
It’s hard to recreate the exact circumstances in that original community, but it seems clear that it has something to do with the status of Jesus, whether he is recognized as divine along with the Father or not. The acrimony from the dispute is poisoning the community, leading the elder to say:
Anyone who claims to be ‘lit’ and hates a fellow believer is actually in the dark even now. Loving your fellow believer is abiding in the light. There is no cause for offense in someone who does this. Hating your fellow believer is darkness—walking in darkness to you know not where—because darkness blinds your eyes.1 John 2:9-11
In later epistles the disputes turn to hospitality, to whom to offer it and why it is so critical to the health of the community.
What the letters do is to hold together a strong Christological credo with a generous community. The two go hand in hand. It seems we cannot be open, welcoming, and enlightened without also knowing the source of that love in God’s love in Jesus Christ.
My translation of the three epistles can be found via the following links: