Today’s reading is 3 John.
Can you imagine excluding one of the twelve apostles who walked with our Lord from coming to our church to speak? OK, Judas, yes. Without repentance we wouldn’t welcome him but that wouldn’t have been an issue since he killed himself.
I’m talking about John–the disciple that Jesus loved, one of Jesus’s three closest associates, and one of the three people who saw his transfiguration. That guy, John, wanted to come to some church, somewhere but he was refused entrance according to verse 9. Why? Because of some guy named Diotrephes. We don’t know anything about him other than what John wrote of him here in 3 John. He must have been an elder or have some kind of outsized influence in this church; otherwise, he would not have been able to prevent John from coming there.
But what an influence he must have had! To successfully prevent one of the Lord’s Twelve from getting an audience in his church suggests an outrageous amount of power. And, apparently that’s what he wanted because John described him as a man who “loves to be first” (v. 9b).
John wasn’t alone; verse 10 tells us that Diotrephes “refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” So any believer that tried to come to his church was prevented from entering and, if you were in the church and tried to bring someone in, you’d be subject to discipline by Diotrephes. Outrageous!
How did he amass this kind of power? We don’t know exactly, but there is a clue in verse 10a when John says that Diotrephes was “spreading malicious nonsense about us.” He used the power of words to gain control and influence, then used that influence to call attention to himself instead of to glorify God. This is one of the destructive aspects of gossip. Gossip is often true but embarrassing information about others. Sometimes, though, it is completely false and has been planted by someone with evil intentions. This appears to be one of the ways that Diotrephes was able to keep his church under his evil influence.
Although Diotrephes was affective, he should not be imitated for verse 11 says, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”
Do you think about the words that you use and the destructive power that they potentially can have? Are you careful about the words used by others, not believing “malicious nonsense” (v. 10b) but going to the source to verify, clarify, or refute these nonsensical things? Do you “love to be first,” basking in the recognition of others? Let God’s word today help you examine your motives and your practices and teach you to “imitate… what is good” (v. 11a).