Part 41 – Trouble With a Capital “D”
John opens his Third Letter commending his dear friend Gaius for being a godly man that is walking in the truth of the Gospel and the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ; and that he has shown great and gracious hospitality to the Christians who have traveled to and through his town.
In contrast John then writes about the opposite behavior of one of the apparent leaders in Gaius' church named Diotrephes. I'm not quite sure how Diotrephes – if he is the lead elder or in any kind of authority – got into that position because his behavior towards the Christians in and out of his church is completely contrary to the biblical description of a spiritual leader.
We see in verse nine that Diotrephes always seeks to be first. A true leader is a servant to his people and will desire to go last.
A true leader is gracious and welcoming to all who come to his church, yet we see that Diotrephes is not welcoming, and to make matters worse, he isn't welcoming to the apostle John and his associates!
A true leader is called to share the truth of the Gospel, and through implication that would mean that all of his 'words' will be full of life, truth, kindness, etc., yet we read here that Diotrephes is spreading malicious nonsense – lies – gossip – about John and other Christians.
One of the overriding issues John is concerned about in this Letter is act of hospitality that true believers ought to be extending to traveling or needy Christians. In 2 John the Christians there were housing for extended amounts of time the false teachers who were infiltrating the church, and John had to tell them to stop doing so. In 3 John we see that Gaius has been very hospitable to the Christians, and John commends him for that. But then we see in verse ten that Diotrephes is completely selfish and possessive, and not only won't show hospitality to those Christians in need, but anyone in his church that does show hospitality he throws out of the church!
John ends this section of Diotrephes by pointing out the obvious: Christians are to do the right thing and not the evil thing, because those who do the right thing are showing that they love and belong to the Lord God through Christ, and those who do evil (in this case, Diotrephes) are proving that they do not love God, nor belong to Him. John has every intention of coming to this church and correcting Diotrephes and this problem.
Of course, the practical implication for all of us is once again – a heart check. Are we extending grace and mercy to those in need, especially to other Christians? Are we speaking only what builds up, or are we tearing down through gossip? Are we living humble lives – allowing others to 'go ahead of us' – or are we always seeking to be first? These are all important questions that believers – and unbelievers – need to be regularly asking themselves.