Read 3 John
1 The elder,
To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
2 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. 3 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. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors 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 people so that we may work together for the truth.
9 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.
This is a tale of three men. 3 John is the shortest book in the Bible and a powerful letter that is still very relevant today. 3 John is written to a Johannine church community that is experiencing a clash of characters. There is a man named Gaius, to whom this letter is written; another man named Diotrephes, and a third individual named Demetrius. These three men are like three kinds of Christians found in the church throughout any age. From these three characters, we can glean that Christ-followers exemplify hospitality and love both the family of God and the outside community.
John (or, “the elder”) begins by greeting Gaius and issuing joyful praise toward Gaius for his love of “the truth.” You might wonder, what does it mean to “walk in the truth”? Some have argued that John is happy because Gaius is “walking in sound doctrine.” However, this phrase is best understood as “to walk consistent with the truth you believe.” That is, in Jesus, we found the hospitality of God on full display! All are welcome to the table (Luke 14:13). Therefore, John is joyful that Gaius and his friends have welcomed the traveling witnesses/missionaries, demonstrating the hospitality that is to be a proper outward behavior of the follower of Christ (3 John 5-8).
In stark contrast, John issues a public rebuke of Diotrephes for his lack of hospitality and humility. John calls attention to the rumors about Diotrephes, his unwillingness to welcome the fellow believers, and even his kicking those that receive them out of his congregation/community (3 John 9-10). To this, John argues in verse 11: “Do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good.”
Finally, John makes mention of Demetrius. John commends Demetrius, the letter-carrier, as one of good rapport, before concluding this intimate letter with a desire for face-to-face interaction soon. John wraps it up by essentially saying, “I’ve said a lot here (through the Bible and tradition), but I have so much more to say… I’d rather not write with pen and ink. But I will see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.”
So what are we to make of such a brief letter like this? An honest question to ask ourselves is if we’re more of a Gaius than a Diotrephes. Gaius lives out the gospel. He’s hospitable. He’s gracious. His actions are the result of a life devoted to Christ. The same seems to be true of Demetrius, as well. Diotrephes, on the other hand, is self-absorbed. He puts himself in front of others. His life is antithetical to what the gospel calls us to. As we process this reading, we get to decide which of those traits we want to embody.
- Take a look at verse 2. That is a wonderful thing to say about someone, isn’t it? If your physical appearance reflected your spiritual state, what would you look like?
- What are some creative ways you are seeking to “walk in the truth” and remain hospitable in our culture? What are some barriers to hospitality that you’re facing?
- What has God taught you through the reading of 3 John?
did you know?
3 John makes no mention of Christ, which caused it to be neglected and slowly welcomed into the canon of Scripture.