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When Not to Say “Hello” (2 John 10)

How do you treat people who disagree with you theologically?

There has been a lot of dissension in the church over this question. My computer’s dictionary describes “dissension” as a “disagreement that leads to discord,” and this may be part of the key. There is a type of disagreement that does not produce discord, disagreement over which friends can agree to disagree. That’s just healthy discussion.

Then of course there are those who think that any minor disagreement is worthy of a church battle, church discipline, and a church split. The words of Paul to Titus apply to them. “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them” (3:10).

But what about those in the middle? “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them (χαίρειν αὐτῷ μὴ λέγετε)” (NIV, see also NRSV). What does “welcome” mean? The NLT has,” don’t … give any kind of encouragement,” a strange translation of χαίρειν. The ESV and NET talk about not giving a “greeting,” another strange translation since “greeting” is so general and χαίρειν is so specific.

The HCSB does a much better job translating χαίρειν. “Don’t say, ‘Welcome,’ to him.”

I must say, I find myself puzzled by these translations. χαίρειν is simply the common way to greet someone in a somewhat formal occasion. Today, we say “Hello” (Acts 15:23, 26; James 1:1; see Rom 12:15). John is saying that we may not even say “Hi” to someone.

The key is to see what kind of person John is speaking about, and here it is someone who denies the reality of the Incarnation, that Jesus is God come in flesh (2 John 7).

So if someone comes into our fellowship denying the reality of the Incarnation — and I assume this person would have to claim to be a brother or sister; otherwise, non-Christians would not be welcome — we are to so ostracize them that we don’t even say hello; otherwise, “anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work” (2 John 11).

Have you ever experienced this sort of commitment to the central truths of the gospel?

P.S. By the way, if you want to learn to say “Hello” in Greek, go here. To say “Goodbye,” go here.

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