“1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 3 I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; 6 they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; 7 for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers. 8 Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth.
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.
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. 12 Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true.
13 I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; 14 instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.
15 Peace to you. The friends send you their greetings. Greet the friends there, each by name. “
Congratulations! You just read a whole book in the Bible! By word count, III John is the shortest book in the Bible. It is not addressed to a community or specific church but to an individual, Gaius. It is a piece of personal correspondence.
Apparently, a group of traveling evangelists who were friends of “the Elder”, the author of the letter, were shown warm hospitality by Gaius. The Elder is writing to express his thanks to Gaius and to encourage Gaius in his faith.
Hospitality has always been a hallmark of true Christian community.
There is also a conflict between the Elder and someone named Diotrephes. Diotrephes is apparently a control freak with power and influence in this faith community. He is determined to keep any influence of the Elder, including the Elder’s friends, out of his, Diotrephes, church.
In all fairness, we are only given one side of the story. We have no way of knowing whether or not Diotrephes was justified in minimizing the influence of the Elder upon his faith community. He could just as easily been their guardian, protecting them from a predator hiding behind the mantel of Jesus.
Over the years I have watched control freaks choke the life out of congregations, a heart-breaking scenario for sure. I have also prayed for congregations to have someone like Diotrephes emerge to protect the flock from ravenous wolves parked on the church’s door steps. Sadly, both scenarios are all too real and have been a part of the church since its beginning.
History casts Diotrephes as the bad guy in III John. So, I say let history be our guide on this one. It sets up the punchline of the letter, “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.”
Please note the one who does evil is not labeled as evil, but as one who “has not seen God.” The work of the church is help people see God in us. Hospitality is a great way to make God visible to the people around us. We have learned that lesson pretty well at HCC!
Be a blessing to someone today!