“The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.” (3 Jn. 1:1)
In the Swahili version the words “wellbeloved” and “beloved” (verse 2, etc.) are translated “lover”.
In other words, the Apostle John addresses Gaius as his lover. But, clearly, Gaius is not just John’s lover; he is beloved to the entire church.
In this twisted world, of course, “lover” means something entirely different. But for the Early Church that word indicated the unspeakably deep love that the church had for one another.
In his endings to his letters to the churches the Apostle Paul exhorts them to “greet one another with an holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians).
So does the Apostle Peter (1 Pet. 5:14).
The Early Church was light years ahead of today’s church where enmity and every kind of ill will define much of the church. It is difficult to comprehend the kind of love that ruled the church in those days. It is difficult to comprehend a love in the Spirit that finds it insufficient to just call one “brother” or “sister” and can only call them “lover”.
In the same manner the holy kiss is an expression of incredibly deep love that the early church members had for one another.
Truly, the Early Church left us an incredible example to follow. Isn’t amazing and simply wondrous to imagine such love amongst all God’s children scattered all over this old, tired world?
May God give us much grace, that the church might arrive here.
Such love is only of God, of ‘Christ come in my flesh.’
Alas, Christians today have learned the part of the Great Command found in Leviticus 19:18, “as you love yourself”, but have lost the part that says “Love your neighbour”!
Sad indeed but so true!