Diotrephes, that is not a name that rings a bell. It didn’t for me anyway. I’m not a learned scholar of God’s word but I do the best I can to learn more so when I read about Diotrephes I just kind of had a “huh, interesting” moment. You can read about Diotrephes in 3 John 1:9-11, yep just two verses.
The whole idea behind the third epistle is to shed light on two very distinct ways that churches were being towards guests. That one is welcoming (Gaius) while the other is not a gracious host. The guests that the epistle speaks about in 3 John 1:5 are believers. The word for “brother and sisters
used in Greek is adelphoi which refers to brethren in God’s family.
Diotrephes loved being first. So much so that he would not welcome any one as guests to the church he tended. Those outsiders would bring influence and that would challenge his authority in the church. Not only did he turn away guests but he did his best to spread dissension among his flock about people wanting to visit. If those people tried to help those outsiders he would throw them out of the church. He loved power and put it above Christ. It’s easy to say, “He shouldn’t do that.” because we know that putting anything above Christ is wrong. There is more to Diotrephes that we can learn than just he usurped Christ in his heart with power.
This was the non-obvious thing that Diotrephes was missing. He was not applying the words Christ spoke (Matthew 20:26-28) that He emulated throughout his life on earth, Diotrephes was not being a serving leader. Even businesses today understand the benefits of this type of leadership and it was not being applied in the most important place, God’s house. The Son of Man left his place in heaven, lived among us and even washed our feet. That wasn’t enough, He chose to then die for us (Mark 10:45). None of which we deserved and yet he chose to serve us so that he could lead us back to God.
The third epistle of John compares Gaius to Diotrephes and urges deperately for Gaius to follow good examples. God’s given us the very best role model we could ever have. He’s a perfect one, His Son. We must be gracious and discerning hosts. As men we must lead our family, our church by serving them. This is why we are called to love our wives as Christ loves the church. Christ has no bottom floor to how far he would go to cement the church under God’s authority. He leads the church with every intention of elevating it to God’s glory. By shunning others Diotrephes was trying to get in the way of Gods’ desires. There is no record of whether Diotrephes ever turned from those destructive ways but in the here and now, if we can aim to live like Paul tells us in Romans 12:9-13 we can fulfill our duties as hosts to our adelphoi and to the unbeliever we can show them what Christ was really all about.