Nobody likes a bully. They make us feel powerless and small. They can make us afraid, even when the bully isn’t around. We hear a lot about bullies at school and on social media. But bullies are everywhere, even in the church.
The back half of John’s letter to his friend Gaius describes a bully who’s taken over the local church. Putting himself first, he’s lording it over others, and refusing to listen to anyone who disagrees. When John sent some friends to find out what was going on, Diotrephes (the bully) wouldn’t even allow them into the church, and expelled anyone from the congregation who tried to welcome them.
Apparently there was one person who was standing up to this bully. His name was Demetrius. Diotrephes responded by trying to ruin his reputation, so John, in this letter, came to his aid. And, always the pastor, John couldn’t help but use this whole mess as a teaching example of how Christians are to live with each other.
“Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good.” (vs. 11) This is how Jesus taught his disciples, by showing them what to imitate. After washing their feet he said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15) Imitating what is good means showing hospitality to strangers, loving your enemies, serving those around you, and working out your differences in a way that honors the other.
In today’s cancel culture, Jesus’ followers can show the rest of society what it means to really “walk in the truth.” It has less to do with winning arguments and more to do with washing feet.
Questions for reflection:
- Have you been bullied or known someone who was? What was that like? How did that impact you?
- When would be the next opportunity for you to “walk in the truth”, “imitating what is good”? What does that look like?