The Glory and the Tragedy
Strengthening Lord, be beside me to give me courage, above me to protect me, within me to empower me.
Read 3 John 1-14
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work…” (Col. 1:10).
This brief letter mentions three people who illustrate the glory and the tragedy of the Christian community. Gaius, to whom the letter is addressed, is four times called “Dear friend” and commended for his consistency and unstinting hospitality to itinerant preachers. He is especially praised for walking in the truth (3). This emphasis is repeated when the writer states that doing good is evidence of a genuine knowledge of God, while a life of evil behavior demonstrates the absence of such knowledge (11). How different the reputation of our churches might be if we insisted that spiritual health and progress must be judged by living out the truth in lives of love and sharing.
By contrast, Diotrephes is exposed as an example of failed discipleship because of his misplaced love of himself and his inability to live rightly. His name, which was rare in the ancient world, suggests that he came from an aristocratic family, so a sense of natural superiority may lie behind his arrogance. We may have here the first example of what has been called “second-degree separation,” since Diotrephes not only excludes true brothers in Christ from his fellowship, but also excommunicates others who associate with them (10)! The writer of this letter traces this tragedy to self-love and a failure to put truth into practice.
The third person mentioned is Demetrius, of whom it is simply said that he is “well spoken of by everyone” (12). What an accolade this brief phrase is! Diotrephes, desperate “to be first” (9), brings the gospel into disrepute, while the humble Demetrius who lives the life of truth becomes what Paul calls “the aroma of Christ” in the church and the world (2 Cor. 2:14,15).
This letter especially concerns Christian leaders. If you are a leader, what do you hear God saying? How will you pray for leaders in the light of this letter?
Lord, I pray for the leaders in my church. Protect them against temptation, cast Your vision in them and give them the desire to follow Your call.
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