Unlike 1 John, which had no clear recipient, 2 John was addressed to “an elect lady and her children” (2 John 1). There are three common interpretations of this greeting. First, John could have been writing to all believers. However, this does not explain the difference between the lady, her children, and her sister (2 John 13). Second, the “lady” could be a specific local church or group of churches. In this case, the “children” would be Christians from that church or region, and the “sister” would be a different church or region. Third, the recipient could have been a literal “lady” with “children.” She may have been wealthy, even hosting a local church in her home. This could explain how “all those who know the truth” (2 John 1) may have known and loved her. Some proponents of this view believe “elect” could even be a proper name, Kuria, or even Lady Kuria. This option may best explain the sister mentioned at the end.
Following his opening greeting, John clarified something that he seemed to leave open in 1 John. His first letter frequently commanded that believers love one another. In this letter he defined what that means: “Now this is love: that we walk according to his commandments” (2 John 6). When we obey God, not only are we showing our love for him but for other Christians as well.
The middle section is a warning regarding false teachers, similar to 1 John 4:1-3. The spirit of antichrist drives those who deny who Jesus really is. Because these teachers were on the loose, moving from city to city and church to church, John warned that this lady not welcome them into her home (probably where the church met) or give them a platform to spew their demonic message. Christian hospitality does not extend to wolves who are looking to devour the sheep. Rather, she would be complicit in their error if she knowingly allowed them access to that congregation (2 John 10-11).
The closing is a wonderful reminder that this is a letter from a person to a person. More than just an ancient, faceless apostle, John was a man who loved God and loved the Church enough both to pick up “paper and ink” to warn from a distance and to “come visit…and speak face to face” (2 John 12). From our perspective, what an honor that must have been!