1:9 I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not acknowledge us. 1:10 Therefore, if I come, I will call attention to the deeds he is doing – the bringing of unjustified charges against us with evil words! And not being content with that, he not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but hinders the people who want to do so and throws them out of the church! 1:11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is bad but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does what is bad has not seen God.
1:12 Demetrius has been testified to by all, even by the truth itself. We also testify to him, and you know that our testimony is true.
Its sad that John, after spending the first portion of the letter encouraging the selfless attitude of some of the saints, has to now turn his attention to a certain Diotrephes and deal with what seems to be common in the church. We have a tendency of acknowledging the concerns outside the camp but sometimes we ignore our own problems.
Your name might not be Diotrephes but perhaps looking at his character will bring you to see some areas we have the danger of becoming. Diotrephes character is one that
Needs to be first
I find it significant that John actually says loves. It’s a strange occurrence looking at others but so often we fail to see this within ourselves. When you ‘navel-gaze’ you are left with nothing but yourself. And it is tough to listen to authority of truth, reason, doctrine, the bible, Apostles, the pastor, a friend, your mother, or the Spirit of God. When a person loves to be first that person fails to recognize the body of Christ.
You can see the downward spiral right? But here is the greater danger of self-absorption. You have to feed the self-absorption. I can’t be satisfied in my discontentment. I have to find new levels of discontentment. For Diotrophes it was not enough to make charges against fellow members in the church he had to take it to another level. He keeps the body separated by withholding members together who could otherwise continue the commission that our Savior has given us. This brother’s example is more extreme because the text seems to lend to the notion that he was in a position of authority. The same in principle applies to any member of Christ when we settle for our own satisfaction in place of what would make God most satisfied.
Not a Good Model
In a post-modern self-absorbed society it is no wonder we can become overly self-sanctified centered. My personal walk and my means of holiness as though I am walking alone… I think a failure to be properly concerned in your relationship in application is seen here though. Diotrophes walk is used as a model not only to those original recipients but also some 2000 years later that this is not the way to act if you are of God. He is the example to the reader that self-absorption will get you a heritage of “don’t follow the path of this guy.”
Consider again the path of the ‘ones carrying the name.’ We don’t know their names and you almost want to know who they were. But that does not really matter. Who they are does not really describe what they are about. In order to get to that point in life we have to look for the Diotrophes in our own hearts and resolve to no longer come in first place.