A Christian Leader Or A Dictator?
3 JOHN 1:9-14 Harry Truman once commented on the importance of polls to leadership, with the following insight: “I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he’d taken a poll in Egypt? What would Jesus Christ have preached if He had taken a poll in Israel? Where would the Reformation have gone if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It is not the polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It is right and wrong and leadership—men with fortitude, honesty, and a belief in the right—that makes epochs in the history of the world.”
I. CAUTION ABOUT A DISLOYAL LEADER VV. 9-11
In verse 9, the Apostle John refers to a letter that no longer exists. Many scholars think that this letter was lost. Some think that Diotrephes destroyed the letter. This is sheer speculation. You and I do not know whether Diotrephes destroyed it or declined to read it to the church. But there is one thing that is sure. This man Diotrephes rejected the Apostle John’s written instruction to receive the itinerant evangelists. He refused to show hospitality to some of the traveling servants of God.
When you compare Diotrephes to Gaius you see a striking contrast. In behavior and character Diotrephes was entirely different from Gaius. Gaius is portrayed as walking in the truth, loving the brethren, entertaining the strangers. Diotrephes, on the other hand, is seen as loving himself more than others and refusing to welcome traveling evangelists, or to let others do so. This is a lay leader who wanted to control the church. Either you do it his way or you will not get it done. Have you worked under a leader like that? They are a pain in the neck. This is dictatorship and not devotion to Christ. In these verses, the Apostle John denounces Diotrephes. First, John denounces his refusal to listen to other spiritual leaders. John accuses him of loving the preeminence. In other words, he loves to have the foremost place. He loves to be the first among them. He was just like the scribes and Pharisees. He loves to be seen as one in charge of everything. He does not want to work behind the scenes. I tell you that in heaven God will shock many of us. I believe that many Christians who work behind the scenes will receive more and probably better rewards than those who lead in the open. Second, John denounces him of his slander of the leaders. Do you know that there are some leaders who begin well but go astray from the ways of Christ, because they love fame and prestige more than integrity? Such people become obstinate who will not listen to good and godly counsel. Their motto is “I have to be in charge.” “I have to do my own thing. ““I have to do it my way.”
Any Christian leader with such attitude is walking on a thin line; he/she is not far from shame and disaster. Are you like that? Third, John denounces him for his bad example in refusing to welcome any gospel teachers. Do you know that pastors who are dictators do not want to give their pulpits to anybody? They do not invite guest preachers because they do not want their membership to hear the truth and liberating gospel. Such people are insecure and have all kinds of ulcers. Fourth, John denounces Diotrephes for his attempt to expel those who opposed his leadership. Many of such things happen in independent churches. They happen in one-man churches. Either you shape up or ship out; either you comply, or you are cast out. A church where the leader is a dictator is an abusive environment. A church where the leader must oversee everything, else nothing gets done is not the church, which Jesus died for. Ladies and gentlemen Jesus alone must oversee His church. The Holy Spirit is the One who must direct the affairs of a church and not a dictator.
Diotrephes has a problem with personal ambition. Ladies and gentlemen if you want to enjoy good and long life do not bring your personal ambition to the church of Christ. Personal ambition has no place in the body of Christ. Due to personal ambition, Diotrephes laid baseless and false accusations against Apostle John and his team. This dictator evidently regarded John as a dangerous rival to his own assumed authority in the church and sought to undermine his position by slanderous gossip. He was strongly opposed to Apostle John and the traveling evangelist or missionary. Would you do anything to maintain the status quo in the church? Would you go your way to undermine others in other to maintain your leadership position in the church? That is not the spirit of Christ.
Sins such as pride, jealousy, and slander are still present in the church, and when a leader makes a habit of encouraging sin and discouraging godly actions, he must be stopped. If no one speaks up great harm can come to the church. We must confront sin in the church. If we try to avoid it, it will continue to spread and infest many people. A true Christian leader is a servant and not an autocrat. That does not mean that you have to disrespect or walk on your spiritual leaders.
In verse 11, the Apostle John shows that Diotrephes’ conduct is an example of that which must not be imitated. He admonishes us not to emulate evil but what is good. Every person is an imitator. It is natural for us to look to other people as our model and to copy them. The Apostle John has spoken highly of Gaius, but now he speaks with disappointment of Diotrephes, the self-ambitious leader. Who is your role model? Young people who are your role models? The word of God says that your role models should not be those who do evil, but those who do good.
There is a story about a father and his son who were walking on the seashore one day. The boy was walking behind his father and placing his feet in the mark that the sole of the father’s shoe had left behind in the sand. When the father turned back and saw what his son was doing, he asked him, son what are you doing? The boy said, “I am learning to walk in your shoes.” That statement came home to the father. Your children are watching you. The question is what kind of example are you leaving them? What kind of mentor are you?
John goes on to say that one who does good is of God. In other words, the person who practices what is good belongs to God. John is saying that when you are truly redeemed by Jesus Christ, His behavior and conduct rob on you. Therefore, to do good is the evidence of divine birth (Eph. 2:10); to do evil is to prove that you have never seen God. This raises a question whether the self-ambitious Diotrephes is a Christian at all. Sometimes you see the overwhelming inconsistency in people’s life, and you begin to wonder whether they are Christians. John says that a person who claims to be a Christian, but practices evil has not seen God. He does not know God.
II. COMMENDATION OF A DEVOTED LEADER V. 12
This is what those who call all Christians hypocrites need to be mindful of. When you meet one mean or bad Christian, do not conclude that all Christians are the same. This reminds me of a story of hospitality and churches. Singer John Charles Thomas, at age sixty-six wrote to a syndicated columnist Abigail Van Buren:
“I am presently completing the second year of a three-year survey on the hospitality or lack of it in churches. To date, of the 195 churches I have visited, I was spoken to in only one by somebody other than an official greeter—and that was to ask me to move my feet.”
This is a sad situation. When you come to church late and your favorite seat is taken do not be rude and ask the person to move to another seat. You look for another place to seat. Lack of hospitality and simple etiquette has caused many churches to lose potential persons for Christ and the church. At the same token when you have a bad experience in one church that does not mean that all churches are like that. When you have a bad deal from one self-centered Christian do not conclude that all Christians are like that. Do not make such blanket and general statement. Do not call it quits. You will soon see two or three good Christians. Diotrephes is sandwiched between two devoted and godly leaders in the persons of Gaius and Demetrius. We do not know too much about this Demetrius, but the little that we know about him is commendable. Demetrius has the witness from everyone, of the truth itself, and of John the apostle. Demetrius has an impeccable character. He is a striking contrast to the corrupt Diotrephes. While Diotrephes has no regard for truth; Demetrius had a high regard for truth. The Apostle John personified truth as a witness to Demetrius’ character and teaching. In other words, if truth itself could speak, it would speak on Demetrius’ behalf. Are you Diotrephes or Demetrius? If those who knew you best were to say something about you what would they say? Do you recall the story of the dog and the cat? The dog left home for good, but one day met the cat. The dog asked the cat what are they saying about me in the house? The cat answered wisely; they are talking about the circumstances that led to your departure. Do not do anything that you wish you had not done. To put it differently do not do anything that you would live to regret.
Demetrius had a good testimony, and not only that John and his colleagues also bore witness to his life. The genuineness of his Christian life was self-evident. The truth he professed was embodied in him, so closely did his life conformed to it. Demetrius practiced what he preached. His profession of faith was consistent with his practice of the Christian life. Know that Gaius has not met Demetrius before. Demetrius is one of the traveling evangelists, but Gaius likes what he hears about this servant of God. To Gaius the Apostle John’s testimony alone is enough. If you were to travel to a city where you were a total stranger, but you have a friend who had mutual friends in that particular city, would they feel free to recommend you to their friends?
Every Christian is a witness. The question is, are you a good witness or bad one? Diotrephes was a bad witness for Christ. He was a bad lay leader in the church. He had hijacked the church of Christ. Therefore, John commends Demetrius and condemns Diotrephes.
III. CONTEMPLATION OF A DISCIPLINED LEADER VV. 13-14
The Apostle John has many things to write to Gaius than space would allow. He is contemplating visiting Gaius, and they would have much to talk about. Before I conclude the message, let me show you something. In 2 John the emphasis is on the refusal to show hospitality to false teachers. Third John on the other hand, urges continued hospitality to those who teach the truth. This calls for a thorough understanding of the word of God and discernment. A church or a pastor should not give his pulpit to a false teacher or preacher. This requires discernment of spirit and depth of insight into the word of God. We are to show hospitality to the teachers of truth. We are to support them in any way we can, but we are to avoid those who are false teachers and prophets. Hospitality is a strong sign of support for teachers, preachers, evangelists, and missionaries of integrity. It means giving them of your financial support so that their stay will be comfortable and their work and travel will be easier. Look for creative ways to show your support to God’s workers. Bro. Hope who is now in charge of our music ministry is an asset to this church. Show hospitality to him. I thank God for the Nwachukwu’s who are hosting him. I thank God for some of you who have invited him to your homes. Do not wait to be told to show hospitality to him so that he will feel at home here. Those who go their way to be a blessing to a servant of God receive God’s blessing in return. Your creative way to show hospitality can be in the form of a letter of encouragement, a “care” package, financial support, an open home, gifts of personal effects, and prayer. Sometimes people miss the blessings of God because of the way they treat men and women of God.
In the stories of the three women in the lives of Elijah and Elisha had the women been indifferent, insensitive and refused to show hospitality, one of them would have lost her family to her deceased husband’s debtors; the other would have been barren for life; the third woman and her child would have died of famine.
In verse 14, John tells Gaius that there are many catching up to do when he comes. The word “hope” means a great expectancy, an eager anticipation. The apostle is anxious to see Gaius face to face. But before John concludes his letter, he prays for peace for Gaius. Gaius needs a double dose of God’s peace in his life. Why? Because Diotrephes is a lay leader of the church where Gaius serves as the spiritual leader. Diotrephes is a troublemaker in the church. He is causing strife in this church; therefore, it is appropriate for John to pray for God’s peace for Gaius. John extends the greetings of the Christian friends to Gaius. John also tells Gaius to greet the friends by name. Even in a mega church Christians should not lose their individual identity and importance in the group. God wants the pastor and the members to know each other by name. The Good Shepherd calls His own sheep by name.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."