Do you feel like you were reading someone else’s letter here? Again, the elder (presumably John) has written to a friend. This letter has found it’s way into the Bible on purpose. There is a message here for us. Did you see it? There are probably several things we can take away from this reading. If I miss one, please leave me a comment.
When we get beyond the normal letter format, including the salutation and wishes for health, we learn that John is happy with his friend, Gaius. John says, “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” That is true for us, too, isn’t it? We always want what’s best for our children or for individuals we have nurtured.
I just had a conversation today with my physical therapist. She grew up as a Christian in the United States. But now that she has moved back to Mexico to work, she has found it difficult to find a church that feels like “home.” She tells me how her mother (still living in the States) is always asking if she’s found a church yet. That mom is just wanting what she knows is best for her child, to be in a loving church family.
John is also thankful for how the traveling church workers have been treated. That is a good lesson to us to be sure to treat missionaries with respect. The life of a missionary is hard, scary at times, and without much provision. I know that first hand now as we are serving our church as missionaries. We are waiting for God to establish us in a foreign country, and we need prayer, support, and open hearts to receive our message. It’s so much easier to do the Lord’s work when you are welcomed and prayed for.
John also cautions against a man, Diotrephes. We recognize the type, don’t we. John says, he “loves to be the leader.” Reading between the lines, we see that this guy shouldn’t be leading, has nothing positive to say, and is certainly not trying to further the kingdom. We need to be careful not to let “leaders” like that take control of our community of faith.
What does John say they should do? “Don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.” This is a great example of learning from the bad example. Simply don’t do it that way, do the opposite.
You’ve probably encountered some bad examples in your day. The hard part is when you don’t see them as “bad.” One of John’s themes over the past 3 books has been to watch out for the false prophets. When we can stand strong against the opposition, the negative thinkers, the evil doers, etc., we are Christ followers seeking to be a good example. Just as helpful is to learn from the bad examples and avoid those mistakes.
How can we do this? Speak the truth. Teach the truth. Stay connected to Jesus who is the truth.
Let’s pray. Lord, I know there are so many bad examples of who to live in this world. Help me to recognize the bad examples from the good. Help me to be a good example. Speak your truth through me. Thank you for the gifts you’ve given me that I can now share with the world. I love how I feel when I am spending time with you and sharing your truth with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.