Scripture Focus: 2 John 12
12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
Reflection: Beyond Pen and Ink — Love of Advent
By John Tillman
John, the beloved disciple, is the most artistic and visionary writer of the New Testament. Unlike Luke’s chronological, journalistic approach, John chooses and arranges the signs Jesus performs like a playwright arranging the scenes of a play. Events are presented in the order of John’s artistic argument. When the curtain comes down, John’s artistic statement is complete. (John 20.30-31; 21.24-25)
For such a skilled and expressive writer, in his epistles, John lays more emphasis on seeing people in person. The technology of his age is dismissed in both this letter and the next. (2 John 12; 3 John 13) “Paper and ink” or “pen and ink” get dropped in preference to spending time face to face.
It’s popular to diss technological means of connection. Zoom, Facebook, and other social media are constantly targeted with critique. Much of it is deserved. Pretty much everyone, even the technology companies themselves, agree that we use screens and tech more than we should. Many also blame the degradation of our debates online on the dehumanization of interacting via text on a screen.
As much as I have devoted my life to writing, I have to acknowledge that reading words or writing words sometimes isn’t enough. Perhaps the ideas are too complex and the time (or word count) too short. Sometimes it is because I make mistakes. Sometimes it is because I am misunderstood. But often, it is just what John says; some things are better, face to face.
This is one of the reasons for the incarnation. The Bible, even just the Torah without the New Testament, is a beautiful testimony of God’s love. But Jesus’s birth takes that testimony beyond pen and ink.
God could have continued to write to us, through prophets and priests, and scribes. But what he wanted to say couldn’t be said with pen and ink. He needed to touch lepers and write words in the dirt that spared an adulteress. He needed to walk through Samaria. He needed to mourn death. He needed to wash dirty feet. He needed to bleed.
What God has to say to you, through Advent, through the church, and through the scriptures, goes beyond pen and ink. In a miraculous way, when gathered face to face with believers, Jesus is there among us. Give that face-to-face love to one another this season and throughout the year.
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