This short letter from John to his friend Gaius gives us unique insight into the early church. It touches on three fascinating—and perhaps familiar—situations.
First, we see something of the inner workings of the church as it spread. Normal people offered normal homes to help believers who were serving God. The alternatives for traveling Christians were dangerous and difficult, so giving hospitality was a significant ministry for the health of the church at large.
We live in different times, but hospitality is still such a gift to others. And perhaps there are forms of hospitality that would be strategic in the work of the gospel in our time—not only helping ministers and missionaries but also offering gospel exposure to foreign students, foster children, and even to people looking for alternatives to expensive lodging.
Secondly, John reveals that all was not happy in this unnamed church community as he identifies a problem person—Diotrephes. We don’t know much about him except that he liked to put himself first. What a terrible reputation to have!
Diotrephes seems to have been corrupted by a craving for power. It’s a familiar situation in many churches today. Individuals gain positions of power and wield their authority over others. Does your church have a Diotrephes at work in it? Pray and ask God to give you wisdom about what to do. Or are you a Diotrephes? Get help.
Finally, John gives a glowing recommendation for a man named Demetrius. What John says of him reveals that Demetrius so lived out what the Scripture teaches that the Scriptures ended up functioning as an endorsement of him. There are a couple of lessons to ponder here.
1. Who are you imitating? Forceful characters tend to get our attention, but not every forceful character is a godly example to follow. Look for men and women of godly character, like Demetrius, and imitate them.
2. How is your reputation? You should not live to gain reputation; rather, your character should be shaped by God so that you are like him.
Reflect: What lessons from this letter might apply to your life or church today? How might you offer strategic hospitality? Whose influence should you avoid? Whose character should you imitate?