Troubles in the Church
3John 9 I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.
The Elder had sent another letter to this church but Diotrephes didn’t think anyone needed to know about it, so it was not read. He didn’t recognize the authority of others, but put himself in the place of leader, making decisions about people and whether they could be a part of the church or not. He was single-handedly destroying the reputation of the church and corrupting others along the way.
Hilary of Arles writing long ago suggests that there may be a limit to our patience. We are to “bear the abuse of those who insult us” but there are times when “we have to protest it because if we do not do so, these people will corrupt the minds of those who might otherwise have heard something good…” (Hilary of Arles, Introductory Commentary on 3John) We don’t want to hurt this man and we are never to desire to hurt our accusers. Our desire should be that those like Diotrephes would know the salvation of Jesus Christ. We should also be prepared to suffer the fact that there will be those who attack us and we should be willing to endure those attacks for they will make us better people.
Therefore we endure what people do to us personally but there comes a moment when we may need to protest. Bede writes, “Nevertheless there are times when we have to protest, because those who spread evil stories about us may corrupt the minds of innocent people who otherwise would have heard nothing but good about us. This is why John objects to his accuser.” (Bede, ON 3 JOHN)
What’s the solution to the problem? It comes in the next verse. 3John 11 “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.” Our responsibility in the midst of trouble, is to do good!
The church suffered under the overbearing leadership of someone who was trying to control everything. Diotrephes was not imitating what was good. God was not seen in him nor in his actions and others were being hurt, therefore something had to be said about this leadership. The reputation of the church and her ability to minister were at stake.
There will be times of trouble in the church and there will be those who will try to use their power of influence to take authority. There is a time and place in which this is tolerated, but then there is also a time for action. When the behaviors of this individual reach beyond you personally and begin to hurt the community, then it’s time to step in and speak up, just as John did here in this letter. But in the meantime, remember that we must be accountable for the way in which we live our lives and we are to live in daily obedience to God, living and imitating the good.
Lord, thank you for the lessons from those who have gone before. Amen.
Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.