3 John: Walk the talk

When it comes to the church, there’s nothing the media loves more than A HYPOCRITE. Someone who SAYS ONE thing, but then gets caught doing something DIFFERENT. Someone who TALKS about love, but treats people with anything BUT love. Or who talks about HONESTY, then gets caught in financial fraud. Or who talks about MORALITY and FAITHFULNESS, but then has an affair.

Christians need to be people who LIVE what they believe. Who’s lives SUPPORT their doctrine. People who WALK their TALK.

We say what a difference Jesus can make in our lives. But the reality is/ for many Christians/ there’s not much DIFFERENCE at ALL.

Do people NOTICE you’re a Christian by the way you speak, how you behave, how you treat people? By the way you live your life? Or are you more of a secret agent Christian – BLENDING IN with those around you, ready to make a surprise announcement some time in the future?

There are too many people like Diotrophes. And too few like Gaius. Too many who love to be first, and are more interested in building their OWN little kingdom. And too few who walk in the truth. Who walk the talk. Who live a life of integrity that backs up what they believe.

I’ve been in churches with both of them.

Let me tell you about my Gaius. We were guests in this church for a year. This lady and her husband had been involved in this church for decades. And they made us feel instantly at home. They organised a roster of people for us to visit for Sunday lunch. They went out of their way to show us warmth and hospitality and fellowship. Their interest and love just radiated.

My Gaius would phone us pretty regularly to see how we were doing. We had more phone calls like that/ in that ONE YEAR than in the previous TEN years at our home church!

In some churches the attitude seems to be to get as much work as possible out of the student minister. Because he’s being paid. But here it was different. They genuinely saw themselves as CO-WORKERS in the ministry. And as they invested time and money into US, they were involved in gospel work.

And it wasn’t just a short-term, one-off situation either! There was a HISTORY of hosting student ministers. Over twenty or so years. And as they reeled off the list of who’d been through the church, it was very encouraging to see how they still kept up with these families. And were interested and involved in what they were doing. Co-workers in the truth.

That’s my Gaius. What about my Diotrophes? Unfortunately I’ve met a few. So my portrait here is a compilation of all of them.

My Diotrophes occupies a position of authority in the Church. It might be Management Committee, or Leadership Team, or Choir master.

Diotrophes always has an area of responsibility. His little kingdom. And everything else that goes on in the church has to revolve around that. It might be maintaining the church grounds. Looking after the church’s equipment.

And no group is authorised to use the hall, or grassed area, or carpark, or carpet in the church, or special plates and cups, or photocopier, because it might get ruined.

Or it might be an area of ministry. And no one else is allowed to do anything. Or if they do, it has to be done exactly as Diotrophes decides. After all, this is HIS ministry.

And anyone who dares to suggest something that doesn’t fit into the mould is viewed as a threat. A troublemaker. A boat-rocker.

And so Diotrophes starts to wield his influence. Makes his opposition pretty clear. Maybe even walks out. He did that to me one Sunday.

Or he calls in the favours. Rallies the troops. Draws up the battle lines. Because it’s the ministry of the church that’s at stake! Well, at least HIS ministry.

Perhaps Diotrophes makes a few phone calls. And pretty soon the trouble-maker is black-banned. His phone stops ringing. The seats on either side of him in church are empty. He stands by himself at morning tea.

And it doesn’t take the trouble-maker long to get the message. He doesn’t stand for election again. Stops volunteering for things. He becomes less frequent at church. And pretty soon, he stops coming all together.

And Diotrophes breathes a sigh of relief. Because at last the church can get back to the way it USED TO BE. Back to the way HE likes things done.

(pause) When I think back to my Gaius, and my Diotrophes. I know which one I want to be LIKE. Which one I want to copy. John says, “Do not IMITATE what is EVIL but what is GOOD.”

My guess is most of YOU have known your OWN Gaius’s and Diotrophes. Because most churches have them. Who do YOU want to be like?

Let’s look in detail at THIS church. And at Gaius and Diotrophes. So that we can learn what to COPY. And what to steer well clear of.

1. Gaius

We find out about it from John’s letter to Gaius. We call it 3 John. There’s a FEW Johns. This is the APOSTLE John. The one who wrote John’s gospel. As well as REVELATION. And he wrote these three LETTERS as well.

1. Walking in the truth

It’s about 50 years after Jesus’ death. And John’s a pretty important leader in the Christian community. And somewhere in his travels, he’d come across Gaius. Perhaps even led him to Christ. And even though he’s a long way away, he’s only hearing good things about his progress. Look at verse 3.

(3 John 1:3-4 NIV)  It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your FAITHFULNESS TO THE TRUTH and how you CONTINUE TO WALK IN THE TRUTH. {4} I HAVE NO GREATER JOY than to hear that my children are WALKING IN THE TRUTH.

John’s overjoyed that Gaius is continuing as he left him. His life continues to be moulded by the truth of the gospel. By the demands of God’s word. It’s not just TALK. It’s WALK, TOO. A life that’s CONSISTENT with his testimony.

Occasionally I’ll bump into students I used to teach at school. And many of them used to be in the ISCF group I led. And you know the news I love to hear the most? News that brings tears to my eyes? Not who they married, or how many kids they’ve got. Or what degrees they’ve acquired. Or what career they’re pursuing.

I love to hear news that they’re CONTINUING STRONG IN THE LORD. Even that they’re involved in leadership as well. That they’re giving back some of what they learned. That’s the best news I can receive.

And John says “I have NO GREATER JOY than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

That’s the sort of work it’s worth investing your time and energy in. Is that the sort of legacy YOU’RE leaving behind? Is that the sort of significance you leave in your CHILDREN? In teaching Kids Church, or Yth Gp, or Scripture or Home Group? Neighbours and family and workmates?

Leaving behind people who are WALKING IN THE TRUTH?

That’s what John had done. Gaius still walking in the truth.

2. Hospitality

And he goes on to describe what that walking involves. At least in this case. The SPECIFICS of what he’s heard about Gaius. Verse 5. The second characteristic. Hospitality to the brothers.

(3 John 1:5-8 NIV)  Dear friend, you are faithful in WHAT YOU ARE DOING FOR THE BROTHERS, even though they are strangers to you. {6} They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. {7} It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. {8} We ought therefore to SHOW HOSPITALITY TO SUCH MEN so that we may work together for the truth.

The situation in those times/ was that travelling Christian teachers moved from town to town. They’d arrive. And spend some time teaching and evangelising. And the church would put them up. Meals and shelter.

The problem was that OTHER people decided to get in on the act too. Charlatans. Hoaxes. And they’d live off the good will of the Christians there. Feeding them all sorts of rubbish while they got fat on hospitality.

So what was the right thing to do? Provide hospitality. Or not? Do you take the safe option, and not provide for ANYONE? Or do you risk being taken for a ride, and help the ones you think are genuine?

John’s in NO DOUBTS about what the right option is. The brothers have told him about the warm hospitality they got from Gaius. These were genuine Christian teachers. And John COMMENDS Gaius for looking after them. Even though he’d never met them before.

Look at what John says. Gaius is being FAITHFUL. Verse 5. And LOVING.

And he’s confident Gaius will send them on their way fully stocked up. That he won’t just be generous while they’re there, but it will flow over into their NEXT journey.

John says that sort of generosity is WORTHY OF GOD (v6). Worthy of the God who is so generous to US. Who gives us every spiritual blessing in Christ. And who provides all we ever need.

To look after Christian workers GENEROUSLY is WORTHY of God. I’ve spoken to a missionary who received packages from churches at home. And they’d contain clothes for his family. Old clothes so horrible they were only good for rags. But the assumption was/ the missionaries would be grateful for them.

There’s the joke about the old church deacon who prayed for his minister, “God, blessed are the poor and humble. You keep him HUMBLE. We’ll keep him POOR.”

That’s NOT behaviour that’s WORTHY of God. God is a GENEROUS God. Who cares for his children. Who RICHLY blesses us with ALL that we need. He’s not mean-spirited. Or selfish. Or resentful.. And so the way we treat people should be the same. That’s what it means to send people on their way in a manner worthy of God.

(pause) The Williamsons – Andy and Rosemary – are heading back to Vanuatu in a few weeks. And they need financial support to get there. And they haven’t got there yet. There’s details up the back.

Or there’s the Woldhuis’s. John and Karine. They visited us earlier this year. Heading off to Ecuador in a month or two. And THEY need support.

To give generously to people like the Williamsons or the Woldhuis/ is one way to walk in a manner WORTHY OF GOD.

I’ve spoken to a couple of families who’ve consciously and seriously SAT DOWN. And BUDGETED what they can GIVE UP. So they can afford to give a maximum amount to these new missionary families. Things like no newspapers, no takeaway coffee, no bought lunches. That’s $10 a week. Before you know it that’s $500 a year. EASY!

Is that something YOU could do?

(pause) And look at the reasons John gives for supporting work like this. Verse 7.

(3 John 1:7-8 NIV)  It was FOR THE SAKE OF THE NAME that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. {8} We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.

Gospel workers aren’t doing it for themselves. They’re doing it for the sake of the name. For the sake of Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ. His name sums up the whole message. He is Jesus – who will save his people. He is Christ, the Messiah, the suffering servant who would rule on David’s throne. He is Lord. Lord over life and death. Lord of creation. Lord of your life and mine.

It’s for the sake of THIS name that gospel workers go out. And that means our support isn’t just PERSONAL support. But for the support of THAT NAME. BECAUSE of that name. IN OBEDIENCE to that name.

We’re not giving to the Williamsons or the Woldhuis’s as if they’re a charity case. They’re not BEGGING for their bread. They’re presenting us with an opportunity to serve Jesus. An opportunity to walk in the truth.

3. work together for the truth

(pause) And when we support THEM/ we WORK TOGETHER FOR THE TRUTH. That’s a THIRD characteristic of Gaius.

You’re a CO-gospel worker when you work at your normal job/ and support other full-time gospel-workers.

There are no levels of Christian service. All Christians are CO-WORKERS IN THE GOSPEL when they work for the sake of the name, in the field where God’s put them, generously using the gifts God’s given them.

Is that you? Are you working for the sake of the name? Are you contentedly sowing away in the field where God has put you? Are you generously using the gifts God has given you?

That’s what Gaius was. We’re not told that he was an up-front evangelist, or a church leader, or even a bible study leader. But by being hospitable. Being faithful where God had put him. Being careful to use the gifts God had given him, John said he was walking in the truth.

Are you walking in the truth?

2. Diotrophes

Next we get to Diotrophes. Same church, but poles apart from Gaius. John’s already written him a letter. Because he’s been making trouble for a while. But Diotrophes didn’t take any notice. The letter went straight into the circular file.

So what does John say about Diotrophes? One little phrase is so descriptive. Verse 9. He “loves to be first”

Perhaps he loved to be the centre of attention. Or he loved to be the decision-maker. Or he loved to be the most gifted. Or he loved to build his empire at the expense of God’s kingdom. Or he loved to lift himself up, and put others down.

Whatever it was/ He LOVED TO BE FIRST. And look how that attitude was reflected in his behaviour. Verse 9

(3 John 1:9-10 NIV)  Diotrephes, who loves to be first, WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH US. {10} So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, GOSSIPING MALICIOUSLY ABOUT US. Not satisfied with that, HE REFUSES TO WELCOME THE BROTHERS. He also STOPS THOSE WHO WANT TO DO SO and PUTS THEM OUT OF THE CHURCH.

A very sad portrait of a very sad little man. Five actions that showed how he was the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of Gaius.

1. While Gaius was one of John’s CHILDREN. Obeying and following his example. Gaius wanted nothing to do with John. He refused to accept his authority.

There are some Christians around who refuse to accept that God has placed ANYONE in leadership over them. Their view of Christianity is that it’s not a team sport, but an individual one. Or if it IS a team sport, that it’s a completely DEMOCRATIC one. Where all decisions should be reached by group consensus.

Yet, that’s not the way God’s designed the church. He HAS placed some in AUTHORITY over the church. To LEAD it. To discipline it. Yes, they are to do that as SERVANTS. Just like Jesus. But there is still authority there.

And Diotrophes refused to accept John’s authority.

2. Secondly, while Gaius WALKED IN THE TRUTH, Diotrophes did the opposite – he GOSSIPED MALICIOUSLY. Spread rumours and lies about John and the brothers.

Perhaps he thought he was doing it from good motives. Perhaps he was genuinely mistaken. Thought they were like the other imposters.

But dragging other people down. Discrediting them without evidence. Is not the way to walk in truth.

We are much too quick to spread information. Much too quick to share “prayer points”. Sometimes it IS necessary to tell God’s people about specific personal details. But it isn’t something you should ever do lightly. Without a serious examination of your motives. Why you’re REALLY telling other people.

3. Thirdly, while Gaius showed hospitality to the brothers, Diotrophes REFUSED TO ACCEPT THEM. No room at the Inn.

Imagine the message this sent to non-Christians. “These Christian evangelists are here. They’re preaching about LOVE and FORGIVENESS and COMMUNITY. And the church is supposed to be backing them up. But look at them. No one will even give them a bed for the night! They’re sleeping in the Pub! What sort of love is that!?”

The brothers were preaching about love WITH WORDS. Gaius was preaching about love with his DEEDS. Generous hospitality is an appropriate response to the gospel. Deeds matching up with words.

But Diotrophes was doing THE OPPOSITE.

How well do YOUR deeds match up with your words in this respect? Are you walking your talk?

4. Fourthly, while Gaius influenced others by demonstrating his love, Diotrophes influenced others NOT to demonstrate love. He stopped them showing hospitality.

He pulled strings, and applied pressure, to make sure no one would welcome the brothers. See it there in v10?

Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so.

Reducing others to his level. Spreading his mean-spiritedness, and vindictiveness, like a contagious disease.

5. And when they don’t agree with him, he goes one step further. Fifthly, he puts them out of the church. This guy obviously had some clout – some sort of leadership role – that meant he could remove people from membership. But instead of using his authority to SERVE, he used it to further his own agenda. To push his own barrow. He loved to be first. And he used his position to achieve that. Christian leadership should never look like that.

And so John finishes his two portraits. One of gentle and generous Gaius. And the other of dangerous and diabolical Diotrophes.

3. Who to follow

And while he goes on to give some more advice to gentle Gaius, it’s also advice to us. Because he tells us which example to follow. And what test to use when it comes to making up our mind about people. Look at v11.

(3 John 1:11 NIV)  Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who DOES WHAT IS GOOD is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

Imitate GOOD, not EVIL. Mimic it. Copy it. Watch carefully, then do the same.

Because anyone who DOES good, comes from God. The test of a true follower of Jesus. Of a TRUE teacher, rather than an impostor. Is whether they DO GOOD. Whether they WALK THEIR TALK. Do they say, “Do what I DO!”, or is it just, “Do what I SAY!”?

Because the false leader. The one you don’t want to follow. ISN’T consistent. He doesn’t walk his talk. And John says he hasn’t SEEN God. Truly known him. Hasn’t experienced the reality of God. Hasn’t understood the real implications of the gospel.

(pause) John calls us to walk our talk. He calls us to follow the example of good people. People like Gaius. Who walk in the truth. And whose hospitality is worthy of God.

Are you a Gaius, or a Diotrophes?

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