3 John

Two D’s.

When I was at college, I felt daunted by all the wise and learned folk all around me.
I remember once saying to one of my lecturers -a wonderful guy called John Kelly- what do I need to read? His reply was profound, “short books” he said.
Well, you can’t get much shorter than the third letter of John, it’s almost a post card…

The elder,

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters,[a] even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honours God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

11 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. 12 Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

I love the fact he says “I have so much to write to you, but I do not want to do so will pen and ink, I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face”.
Just a thought as we start this look at 3 John, too often we send emails or texts rather than face to face contact, yet emails and texts often make things worse not better, better to have conversations in the real world rather than in a virtual world, a conversation face to face where we can see the eyes of the other.
In the third letter from John two leaders are highlighted, one is commended and the other is criticised.
One, Demetrius, is loyal to the apostles and their teaching, but more than that he lives it out, he practice what he preaches and because of his conduct being beyond reproach, making him a good ambassador of Christ.
Where as the other, Diotrephes, is disloyal, a person who refuses apostolic accountability, is mean spirited –not offering hospitality- and whose conduct brings the gospel into disrepute.
As I thought about both these characters two things came to mind, the first is accountability, we live in an individualistic age “you can’t tell me what to do” is the mantra of our generation that is zealously independent but also omni-sceptical about anyone in authority. In many ways this has its roots in discernment, not wanting to blindly follow anyone without first testing and weighing their claims, sheep-like.
Yet we all need one another to speak into our lives, because left to my own devices I won’t move forward or deeper in my faith, instead we plateau (the biggest danger for us all if we have been a Christian for a while).
We need to keep ourselves on track.
We ourselves are flawed and fallible, most sins and distractions don’t “kick the door in” but rather sidle up to us and divert us inch by inch, taking us off track one degree at a time when we look back we have drifted far from Christ and often we are the last to notice it (or at least the last to admit it).
We need to learn from one another, we need to allow people to challenge and question us to keep us on track not just for our sake but the spiritual health of those we lead. We need to share together, as biblically we all need one another, and no one pastor or leader has it all together, in fact when a Church leader thinks they are sorted that’s normally the best indication they haven’t (and sadly is a crash often follows)..
When joining a new Church a good question to ask a Pastor is who are you accountable too?
Who do you pray with?
Who speaks into your life?
“Iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another” but this isn’t always a comfortable experience. I used to be part of an accountability group in Poole when I was a youth worker and had an accountability relationship with a guy called Jon another youth worker, sometimes the questions and the challenges were biting and asking some highly uncomfortable questions. Yet when I was at college and in a challenging situation, the first person I rang was Jon as I knew he’d not give me the answer I wanted, but probably what I needed to hear.
The problem with this type of accountability is it is painful, it is costly, it takes discipline to maintain.
Also when I was at college, I met regularly with a prayer triplet, however since ordination one lives in Ireland and the other in Derby it costs me time and money to meet up with them, but it is actually money and time well spent.
I remember hearing someone tell a story about two wood cutters both had to cut down some trees, but the one who cut down most stopped after every tree to sharpen their axe.
Accountability is what keeps our axe sharp.
In the world of fitness we have instructors and coaches that push and challenge us to be all that we can be, who ask us tough questions about diet, alcohol or smoking, and yet if we want to get in shape we let them speak into our lives.
Here we see Diotrephes, rejecting the apostle John’s oversight, didn’t want to be in an accountable relationship, we are given in scripture little idea of what happened to him and the Churches he oversaw, but we see sadly too often in our media of Church leaders who fail financially, morally, end up peddling a distorted gospel or some other Catastrophe.
The author Gordon McDonald “Order in your Private World” said he ended up in adultery because he had no one who could look him in the eye and say “how goes it with your soul?”
The other guy Demetrius, who clearly takes accountability seriously, is commended not just for doing a good job, but being a good example.
What do you need to put in place to be that good example?
What do you need to put in place to stay as that good example?