I have a question. In a recent video that I saw, an atheist argued that the Bible teaches that Christians are to have a hostile and distasteful attitude toward nonbelievers. He cites 2 John 1:9-11 as evidence of this claim which says, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked words. ” (ESV)  He says that this passage instructs Christians to socially exclude nonbelievers and that displaying courtesy and respect to them is a bad thing to do. This would appear to contradict Jesus’ commandment to love one another (John 15:12). What is your take on this matter?


I will have to say that if this passage is taken out of its context, I can see how an unbeliever would be annoyed if not outright offended. Of course, everything you and I know about Jesus tells us immediately that this cannot be a correct interpretation (that Christians should socially exclude nonbelievers). Jesus loved everyone, including non-believers, as anyone reading the New Testament will know immediately.

Here is the correct interpretation of 2 John 9-11.  John is talking about heretics.  He is talking about people who are claiming to be Christians, but who teach things diametrically opposed to what the apostles taught about Jesus.  They are not to give a platform in their churches to people who deny Jesus but claim to be Christians.  John describes these heretical claimants to Christianity as ones who “run ahead.” and “does not continue in the [correct] teaching about Christ.  These are people who claim to have God and who want to claim Christian membership but who are not Christians.  This is NOT a command to be rude, disrespectful or antisocial to non-believers.  Jesus would never have given such advice.   About nonbelievers we are told by Peter to “always be prepared to give an answer” and to do this with “gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)  This is the attitude we should have with outsiders, unless they are claiming to be Christians, teach heretical things, and want a platform in the church. Then we apply 2 John 9-11.

John Oakes

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