In 1994, I was living in San Diego, attending community college, and working at Blockbuster. I was broke. Which explains my living situation: I shared a two-bedroom apartment with three other guys. I can’t remember the name of the guy with whom I shared the double room. The front area (where most people would have kept a couch and TV), Theo had cordoned off with the help of a laundry line and bed sheet—I’m not sure if he owned a mattress. The small, single bedroom went to a senior at UCSD. He majored in Religious studies. So when two handsome gentlemen who knocked on the door and asked me if I’d given any thought to my relationship with the lord—or whatever their specific opening line happened to be—I paused. Normally I would have said nope and shut the door. Rude, I know, but I had no use for religion (even little respect for it) and didn’t have anything intelligent to say, for I hadn’t read the Bible. But with the doorknob still in my hand, I sensed an opportunity.
“Wait one sec,” I told them. “Mike,” I called out, “the door’s for you.”
Perhaps I was being rude—do you mess with people who come to your door (at least from their perspective) with good intentions?—but I was looking forward to confrontation between these two guys and my roommate, who was a really bright guy and would likely take these two to task on their beliefs. I really wanted to see how much these two kids really knew.
In both 2 and 3 John, the author is equally concerned with issues of hospitality and its impact on Christianity’s ideas. Here, he presents some guidelines for his audience, who apparently has been a bit too welcoming to people who don’t have their best interest—i.e. share different religious beliefs—at heart.
Apparently, because people could find food and shelter traveling around, a new trend of religious “circuit riders” developed, and these people tended to spread religious doctrine in order to be welcomed into people’s homes and receive room and board—who wouldn’t want a man of faith to be fed and sheltered? The problem, of course, was (perhaps unbeknownst to some of the audience) that not all of what they preached represented God’s words; some, in fact, were distorted. Apparently, a good chunk of these men of faith had no interest in religion—to hear the author tell it. No, be careful, he suggests, for they are merely traveling to sponge off the gracious hospitality—who needs a real job if people are going to give you free room and board for hearing you speak?
Therefore, John warns against opening your home (and your hearts) to these people—only show hospitality to the ones who are worthy of God (3:8). Test them, basically, don’t merely take their word for it, because they will poison you with their wrong ideas.
My roommate Mike engaged the two guys at our door that day warmly and enjoyed dissecting their points, pointing them to parts of the Bible that they should re-read. For a good half hour they went back and forth, and although I was unable to follow their points—they might as well have been speaking Greek—I enjoyed having someone’s religious stance shown to be lacking in places. Still, I respected that the two guys left without being offended and appeared to have picked up some new information.