Jump Start # 3354
3 John 9 “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say”
The church John was writing to was troubled. It seems to be troubled by one person. And, so often that is exactly what happens. One person in the family or one particular person in the church, and it has to be their way or the highway. It is amazing that those who follow Jesus can appear to be so far away and so distant from Him. Jesus was gentle and humble in heart. Jesus never sent any away. But here, Diotrephes, is doing just the opposite of Jesus. He refuses to accept the people that John sent and he refuses to listen to what John says.
There are many obvious causes of a spirit like Diotrephes. Pride. Selfishness. Power hungry. Control freak. One sees this in sports. One sees this in politics. And, very sadly, one sees this in the church. This spirit gives rise to being a bully and walking all over the hearts of others. It’s a terrible thing when this is among God’s people.
Why? Why is it this way?
First, some think time and heritage gives them a right to be the top dog. Maybe their parents started the congregation. Maybe they have been there longer than anyone else. But all that won’t even get you a free cola. There is no such thing as a pecking order among God’s people. The last has as much a say as the first. Most who want to run the church, usually run it into the ground.
Second, because someone has more history than anyone else and knows all the background stories on everyone there does not give them the permission or the right to bend the rules, play favorites or demand their way. Everyone has a history. And, all of us have a dark page in that history. That’s why we needed and still need Jesus. I’ve heard some say, “We are charter members.” That expression is not Biblical, nor does it matter. If anything, those around the longest ought to be the best examples of service, hard work and love.
Third, those saved by Jesus are often ruined by those who claim to be following Jesus. An uppity attitude and a spirit of “we have put in our time,” only adds to an elitist spirit that hurts the church. Those who have been around the longest often had to struggle through some tough times as things were starting. A lot was expected upon the few. Experience and the right heart can help those who follow.
More concerning is what is a church supposed to do with a Diotrephes? His pride, position and following often intimidates others from saying anything. Anyone who dares challenge or question him is verbally assassinated by Diotrephes. He gets his way because people are afraid of him. Others, just don’t want to get in a verbal dog fight, so they look the other way. Most don’t agree with what Diotrephes is doing, but no one dares to try to stop it.
What can be done? A conversation must take place. With Bible in hand someone needs to show Diotrephes that he is not walking with the Savior. Evidence needs to be put on the table. Walking through the steps of Matthew 18, more may need to get involved. A Diotrephes won’t change easily. He’ll fight and fight for all that he thinks is his. Finally, discipline must take place. A genuine heart will repent. But most times, Diotrephes is far from genuine. So, a split happens. Diotrephes and his following start another congregation. The two groups refuse to communicate or acknowledge one another. Time passes and new people come to both groups. All they know is that the other group is wrong and do not go near them. Generations pass. And, sadly, two small struggling churches do all that they can to survive. One hates the other. The other ignores the haters.
All of this goes back to someone who would not walk like Jesus. That’s how it starts. How it ends often isn’t a pretty story.