Lesson #2: Commit to the big picture of Christ through the details of His love
So when I come, I will call attention to what he (Diotrephes) is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. 3 John 10
My current Bible study, Everyday Theology, has been a great strengthening and clarification of my Christian beliefs. Starting with what scripture is intended for and delving into the trinity and our role as believers in this big world, the lessons have given my BSGs (Bible study girls) a number of “ah ha” moments. We currently are on the section about “church.” What it is, who is the head of it and what our responsibilities as part of the body entail. The first question asked was for us to define what we call “church.”
When I hear media-types chastise the “church” or “Christians” for not condemning some action or stance it makes me wonder what church spokesperson they think will step up to a microphone. Of course, for Catholics that would be the Pope or a regional bishop. But in the non-Catholic world we are so dispersed, with varying types of faith, traditions, even morals and values.
In John’s letter to the church elder, Gaius, he juxtaposes the elder’s immense love for his brothers and sisters in Christ with another church leader, Diotrephes. These brothers and sisters are strangers to Gaius but he welcomes them readily into his home. These travelers are doing the good work of Jesus – spreading the salvation message. And then there’s Diotrephes. John describes this leader as one “who loves to be first.” He doesn’t welcome strangers but even worse, he refused to welcome John.
Imagine that, a church elder who wouldn’t welcome Jesus’ apostle! You’d have to think about the reasoning behind this. This elder even kicks out other believers who welcome new people. And why? Because, as what Warren Wiersbe calls a “church dictator,” he lost his focus on Jesus’ Big Picture of love and instead became focused on the details of man-made doctrine.
“All true Christians can agree on the fundamental doctrines of the faith and, in love, give latitude for disagreement on other matters.”Warren Wiersbe
I’ve read there are about 34,000 different Christian denominations in the world. The Wikipedia page on Christian denominations (Catholic and non) is an almost endless list. Sub groups within sub groups. People who have followed a pastor’s or priest’s particular issue with “the way things are done” and split off from their home church. And as active members of church we have all seen the after effects of a change in leadership – numbers dwindle and people divide. Some churches survive and even thrive while others fade away.
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the Law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Titus 3:9
The Greek word zelos means something very fervent as with Spirit-fueled zeal to serve the Lord. Zelos is used both negatively (“jealousy”) and positively (“zeal”) in the Bible.
For where you have envy and selfish ambition (zelos), there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16
Because when we put our ideas about “the way thing should be done” above the big picture of Jesus and His commandment to love one another as He loved us, we will fail every time. And what is showing that love? To live in obedience to His will.
As I’ve worked through studying the Bible, I keep coming back to my knowledge of how churches work and how they don’t. I’m mystified by the lack actual Biblical based decision making. And how so many people forget the message of 1 Corinthians 13 — the people in our church or faith family are all gifted by God but the use of those gifts must be in love.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Cor 13:1
I once sat on a church marketing committee that included a wide variety of talented people — many of whom had been members of the church for eons. The pastor welcomed us and gave us our charge. I asked a few questions seeking clarification. Within seconds of him leaving, so we could move on with more planning, an older woman who sat across from me immediately pointed a finger at me and said, “Who do you think you are? And what makes you think you know anything about what needs to be done?” Fortunately I was comfortable enough about my background (I have worked in public relations and marketing) that I almost laughed. You see, because I wasn’t part of her “known” circle I was a nobody to “her church.”
We are so often led by the flesh – what sounds good, what feels good. That’s how someone like Diotrephes was allowed to be a dictator at his church. He said enough of the right things to convince enough people to support him. Had they backed up in their thinking and measured his actions against Jesus, the Truth would’ve been revealed.
Notice this Life Lesson isn’t just about the Big Picture. It says, “through the details of His love.” As Christians we must be students of the Word. If not, we are easily led by apostates and dictators and anyone else in our church who appears to be in charge. Jesus didn’t come to erase the Law. He reminds us of the simplicity of the Mosaic Law, without all the human-made rules and regulations placed on it. He constantly chastised the Pharisees for behavior that we find today throughout our Christian churches.
Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering. Luke 52:1
Remember that question in my study about theology? What is the church? It’s you and it’s me. It’s not just a pastor or priest or committee of leaders or even the clique of volunteers. We need to take ownership of our membership in the church body. When we see one of our body leading people astray we are to remind them of Jesus’ Big Picture. And we are to be knowledgeable enough about His Word to help set the church body back on track. A dictator or false teacher is only successful with willing followers!
Read the verse again in 3 John 10: “So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us.”
Notice John will confront Diotrephes face to face. He feels the responsibility of keeping the ship on the right course. He steps in out of love of the Truth. He doesn’t say, “I’m coming to fire him” or “I’m getting everyone together to run him out of town.” John also doesn’t tell Gaius to just go start his own church. It’s an intervention of sorts. That sounds a lot like Jesus.
Imagine a Christian world where the more than 3 billion of us were one body. Where our focus was on obeying Jesus’ teachings and His Big Picture of Love. Imagine the impact we would have on this broken world. Imagine if we could just get our own heart and our own local church soundly on that Big Picture path.