As Christians, we are taught to be nice. We are taught to welcome strangers and to show goodness to people who are different from us. The Bible speaks about hospitality.
We know the Israelites were glad when the prostitute Rahab accepted the spies into her home and protected them. Elijah met similar hospitality from strangers. So did Jesus.
And Christians are to give hospitality to strangers. Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2 instruct this directly.
And so what about John’s command about false teachers – not to accept them into our homes or even to greet them? Not even a “hello”? That seems kind of hard-hearted. Surely we could show them true Christian kindness and maybe soften their hearts.
Two things might be said here.
First, ancient hospitality meant bringing people into your home as guests and giving them a place to stay. In a sense, you endorsed them and their message with your hospitality. And John most likely had the idea of traveling teachers who were offering up a perverted form of the gospel. To take that person into your home, to feed him and shelter him, served to enable his ministry. If you declined him help, he might leave your town. His teaching would have to go elsewhere.
Second, false teaching is dangerous, and John is careful to make that fact clear here. It probably is a bit naïve the think we are immune to the dangers of false teachers – that we will change them, and they won’t change us.
With all of that said, we recognize our culture is very different today. I’ve never had a preacher knock on my door looking for a place to stay. We don’t get asked frequently to have someone come and teach at our church. False teaching doesn’t spread in that way today.
But I have been encouraged to buy books written by false teachers, or to listen to CDs or DVDs or YouTube videos produced by false teachers. This is a form of support for those ministries.
And so we ought to be careful with what we read and with what we watch and with what we buy. We need to be careful of those teachings we consume and endorse.
The biggest danger today in American Christianity is probably the prosperity gospel. Are the teachers you follow on the Internet preaching a gospel that promises health and wealth to Christians? Is it a self-centered kind of gospel?
Think about this. There might be some books on your bookshelf that might not be worthy of any more “hospitality” on your part.