In John’s third letter, we’re presented with the examples of three men: 1) Gaius, who John commends, 2) Diotrephes, who John rebukes, and 3) Demetrius, who John extols, albeit briefly. At this time, traveling teachers were being sent out to different churches, and while Gaius was offering them hospitality and love, Diotrephes was rejecting them, and even excommunicating those who would offer their assistance.
If you’re anything like me, reading these verses probably brought about questions. Why would a church leader want to punish those who were being hospitable toward other Christians? It’s illogical to his position, and the right thing to do should be obvious to his heart. Notice the attributes of Diotrephes that John points out:
Diotrephes loved to be first.
He was not inclusive.
He spread lies about faithful believers.
He refused to welcome other believers.
I can’t help but notice that there is a progression of actions here: he’s selfish. He doesn’t include others in his heart. He intentionally tries to turn people against one another in the community. Finally, he excludes others socially, and punishes those who do obey the Lord. Whether or not that progression was intended by John, I know for me it communicates how easy the path is to a life of “doing what is evil,” as mentioned in verse 11. He may not have ever intended to live a life full of selfishness and hatred. Diotrephes’ fatal flaw — pride, arrogance, the love of self — began inward long before it became outward.
Gaius had many qualities attributed to him that are contrasting to Diotrephes. Notice how vastly different these two men were:
Gaius was faithful.
He was truthful.
He was hospitable.
He was loving.
He lived in a way that honored the Lord.
Just like Diotrephes, Gaius’ inward thoughts and emotions would also grow to become his outward actions. In verse two, John notes that Gaius’ “soul [was] getting along well,” an indication by a good friend that validated his faithfulness to the Lord. Gaius exemplified “doing what is good,” and as a result, it was clear to others that he knew God.
What about you? Although we may not be in this specific situation where the church needs our help hosting traveling preachers, we have all sorts of opportunities in which we can “do what is good” by loving, welcoming, serving, including, and being truthful. Take a moment to clear your mind, search your heart, and ask God these questions:
Is my life marked by pride?
Do I close the door to others instead of offering to serve them?
Do I drag others down in an attempt to lift myself up?
Do I only love those who look like me?
Do I have room in my heart and in my life to “do what is good?”
Where does Demetrius fit into all of this? We knew very little about him, considering this is the only time he is mentioned in Scripture. All we have are two powerful sentences:
“Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone — and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.”
If you had two sentences in the entire Bible to summarize your faith journey, what do you think they would say? Would they betray your heart and reveal pride and selfishness, or would you be confident that you are shown to be humble and loving?