In reading through the second and third letters of John, I was struck by his closing statements:
- 2 John v.12: Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
- 3 John v. 13: I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
The apostle John clearly preferred ‘face to face’ talk to letter writing. I, along with many others appreciate the apostle’s sentiment. Why? I offer the following explanation.
· Face to face communication involves the whole person. In face to face communication we engage verbally (by use of words) and non- verbally (by means of body language). Our body language (facial gestures, posture etc.) contributes much to the process of communication. The problem with letters, emails and other electronic messaging and even the cell phone or the telephone is that we just do not have a living person immediately before us. We cannot look into their eyes and see the emotions reflected there.
· Face to face communication allows for immediate questioning and clarification. There is no time delay. No anxious waiting for a response. Potential misunderstandings are quickly dealt with. Misconceptions are mostly cleared up immediately.
Communication can be a challenge at the best of times. I can only imagine that John the apostle must have had his hands full with people whose hearts and minds were filled with emotional overload, anxiety, bitterness, hurt, anger and such things. Writing a letter to them, or rebuking them by way of a letter would be subject to further complications. Such people easily would allow their hearts and minds to read between the lines of a letter, and into the letter, coming perhaps to wrong conclusions about the writer’s intent, resenting the well- meaning intentions of the writer.
Although a written note is not unhelpful at times, a face to face conversation, together with the human touch is infinitely better. In the Christian ministry we find ourselves, more often than not, better off for having dealt with a conflict or crisis or a complicated matter by seeing people face to face.