A word of advice to you expecting fathers out there: if “Diotrephes” has somehow made it into the running for baby names, you may want to strike that one from the list. Seriously though, for such a quick mention in the Bible, Diotrephes sure racks up a pretty hefty rap sheet. Paraphrasing here, Diotrephes likes to put himself first, he does not acknowledge authority, he talks wicked nonsense, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and he kicks to the curb whomever he pleases during church.
John really didn’t mince words when it came to those opposing the work of the gospel. On the other hand, we can be thankful that John made it abundantly clear what he expected from believers concerning their life of faith: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good” (3John 11). Pretty straightforward. “You’ll recognize them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16).
Now, not to worry, John had a robust theology and doctrine of grace. A quick reading of the rest of his writings will confirm this in a heartbeat. But when given an opportunity for teaching and exhortation, he drives the necessity of sanctification and growth home with a thrust.
There is something comforting and complex about the nature of grace, and John was not shy to explore that cosmic reality. Lest his readers forget, this is the very same man who penned John 3:16. Here, however, as he encourages believers in the process of discipleship, John comes across more like a coach in a holy huddle, trying to pump up his players before they disperse to the activities and challenges of daily life.
The grace and love of God are abundant, lavish, and overflowing, but sometimes we need a little nudge to remember that the rubber’s gotta meet the road at some point. Our lives need to align with what our mouths profess. We’ve all heard the challenge, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Well, this is John’s imperative: “Put your life where your mouth is.”
It’s fitting that one of our other readings today comes from the book of Hebrews, whose author warns his readers more than a few times to be vigilant that they not fall away from their faith. You see, the writers of Hebrews and John both knew something that we need to remember: There is no “neutral” in the life of faith. You are either moving closer to the center of God’s design for your life, or you are drifting aimlessly toward the powers and ways of this world.
Third John’s message is simple and clear: don’t name your kid Diotrephes, and more importantly, imitate good. It’s that clear and it’s that simple. The life of faith calls us all to imitate Christ, the only one who is good.
Written by Andrew Stoddard