Letter to a friend
Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.
Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth. I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.
Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God. Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. We ourselves can say the same for him, and you know we speak the truth.
I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face. Peace be with you. Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.
3 John 1:2-15 NLT
This letter from John to Gaius is quite loving, quite personal, and quite revealing.
John starts out with a loving compliment and encouragement. He equates following Jesus (“following the truth”) to faithfulness and living according to the truth — an abiding faith that is actively impacting his friend’s daily life.
He then commended his friend for helping strangers who are traveling teachers. He mentions not only that we should support them while they are with us, but to partner with them so they can continue to travel and teach. How many traveling teachers have you or I even encountered? And how many have we helped? We might wonder, how do we know if they are true or false, tricksters or truth bearers?
John contrasts these traveling teachers (unknown missionary evangelists presumably) who are continually trusting God and strangers (humbling themselves), with a man who “lives to be the leader” (a recognizable, charismatic, authoritative kingdom builder presumably) that refuses fellowship (proud and exclusionary).
Don’t the worldly gravitate towards building up one type of leader for themselves, while those truly trusting in God, have a relationship with their unseen but well recognized teacher and don’t need to call anyone teacher (Matthew .
I heard Paul Washer preach on a similar subject some time ago ( link here ), and it still rings true — not just about mega-church celebrities on TV that don’t preach the whole counsel of the Word of God, but those in many grand gatherings within your very own towns!
But even knowing this, John encourages his friend not to let this influence him. He doesn’t tell his friend to be so offended that he makes out his life’s testimony to speak against this false teacher? No, John says,
Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.
I’ve also seem many who are so distracted and offended by others that their teaching gets stuck in the mud of only standing with a pointed finger talking about others rather than hearing the warnings for themselves and following and doing only what is good not evil. We do not return evil for evil, we do good. Yes, we must remember that as soon as we find our message turning outward, it may be a distraction attempting to hide what needs to be revealed about ourselves not about another.
And Paul mentions that there are more intimate and personal things that He has to share with his friend that are better said in person. I wonder if there is a conversation that would better be had between you and I, friend, face to face? Not far away from each other, but close like friends? Is there something troubling you? Is there a need that needs meet as you travel proclaiming this gospel? Or maybe I’m the traveling teacher and you want to partner with me? Maybe we can walk together for a season and reach many with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
As Paul said to his friend,
I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face. Peace be with you.
And to the enemies of Christ,
When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.