Imitating What Is Good
Open Your Bible
3 John 1:1-15, Matthew 20:25-28, Hebrews 13:1-6
“I’m being bullied.”
I’m ashamed to say I didn’t believe her at first. I know a good mother ought to give her daughter the benefit of the doubt when it comes to her word against the world’s, but my instinct was to push back anyway.
“Are you sure? What did he say exactly? What did he do exactly?”
I peppered her with questions as we drove down our favorite winding road, our minivan pointed toward home. She held her ground, insisting a kid in her grade was mistreating her, via verbal insults and the occasional kick or shove when walking past. A few days and a few more reports later, my posture toward the tale quickly changed. I went from skeptical (“Oh, I’m sure he didn’t mean it”) to certain (“Tell me his name again, Imma call his mama”) REAL FAST. Someone was pushing my dear child around, and that was not okay.
Fortunately, my daughter, though thirty years my junior, handled the situation with more grace than I would have. She even informed me today that she and her nemesis are now becoming friends. Kids are awesome that way.
In his last letter to the church, this one addressed specifically to his friend Gaius, John gives one final contrast to highlight the truth of the gospel. He juxtaposes Gaius’s faithfulness to the gospel to a man named Diotrephes’s rejection of it.
Oh, Diotrephes was “in” the church. In fact, he fancied himself to be quite a powerful figure in the church—so powerful, he took it upon himself to decide who was in and who was out. Forget that whole “for God so loved the world” thing—Diotrephes had a better idea. He would welcome who he wanted to welcome, and he would push out who he wanted to push out (3John 10).
Bullies like Diotrephes often seem to get their way. They kick and shove and call names until their victims slink away, feeling defeated. Unfortunately for them, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a power play. The biggest and baddest have no advantage here. The gospel calls us to surrender, to decrease so that Christ might increase (John 3:30).
The message of Christ does not need us to lord our power or position over others to intimidate them into belief. No, the gospel calls us to love and to service (Matthew 20:26). It invites us to stay the course, to walk in the light, one foot in front of the other (3John 4). Jesus is not a taskmaster who demands a ransom in exchange for our freedom. He Himself became our ransom; He is our freedom (Matthew 20:28).
I haven’t kicked anyone out of church lately (or ever), but I’ve played the part of Diotrephes in my own life. I’ve tried to twist the gospel into something that works for me, replacing biblical teachings that don’t fit my preferences with ones that do. But the gospel will not be rewritten. It is Truth, with a capital-T, immutable in its truthfulness and irreversible in its effect on those who believe it.
As we come to the end of John’s letters today, take to heart his encouragement and his earnest plea: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good” (3John 11). Walk in Truth. Walk in light, imitating what is good as displayed by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Don’t mind the bullies. Whether they come dressed as self-appointed gatekeepers or as lies from inside your own head, they do not speak for God.
Keep going. Keep close to Jesus.