Summary: Does this ever happen today? Is there ever a time when you want to close the door of welcome on those who come seeking to fellowship with this church? with you? What are the ways we use to make people feel unwelcome?
THE DISEASE OF DIOTREPHES
3 John 1:9-10 (NIV)
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.
10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
John doesn’t write much about this man named Diotrephes but what he does write isn’t very flattering - and rightly so. It appears that this Diotrephes is a man that John fully intends on confronting if he returns to the church that he is referring to. In looking at this man Diotrephes today I believe that we will uncover four characteristics that can cause problems in the Christian community. If these characteristics go unrecognized they quickly lead to what I would diagnose as Diotrephes disease.
He loves to be first (v.9)
How does this desire usually show itself?
Have you ever seen the actions and reactions, the behaviors, the attitudes of someone who loves to be first? Such people are usually filled with pride - the kind of pride that is not easily humbled. Such people like to have the best seats (the front seat in the car), like to have their name prominently mentioned whenever possible, have to have the jobs that get tons of recognition, and always want to have to last word…
Why do you think people want to be first?
Maybe they want recognition, maybe its because they’re afraid of being last, of being left out or left behind. Maybe they crave the attention. Maybe its because they want to hide some weakness they have. The truth is people want to be first because it satisfies their desire to feel needed .
Is it possible for Christians to have this attitude? Oh no, Christians never have this attitude, after all - wasn’t it Jesus who said the last will be first and the first will be last? "I’m going to do everything I can to be last so that I’ll be first!!!" Is that really what Jesus was saying?
Mark 9:33-35 (NIV)
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?"
34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
One the major themes of Jesus ministry was the principle of servant leadership. The idea that principle positions come at the cost of humble hard work. The disciples were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest - oh their lines of conversation is not recorded but I’m sure it included a few things such as, "I followed Jesus first!!" "I’ve given up more to follow Jesus!!" "Jesus hasn’t rebuked me as much as he’s rebuked some of you!!" or perhaps even, "I’m greater than all of you because I’m the one that Jesus put in charge of the money…." Is this argument much different than some of the arguments we sometimes carry on today? The reason why the disciples kept so quiet when Jesus asked "What are you arguing about?" is because they probably knew what Jesus would say to them, Jesus reinforces this message many times, in Matthew 19:28-30 Jesus indicates that at the end times many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first. In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus uses the parable of the workers in the Vineyard to teach this same principle. It is reemphasized in Mark 10:25-31 and again in Luke 13:22-30.
So if wanting to be first is a undesirable "Diotrephes" characteristic what kind of attitude should we have?
Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Are you doing anything to develop this kind of attitude? If so, what are you doing? Do you catch yourself arguing your greatness? Do you eagerly seek out ways in which you can serve others? Do you seek to lead by example or simply go around telling people the right way to do things?
Do you have this symptom of Diotrephes disease or are you living out the cure?
He would have nothing to do with us (vs.9)
The "us" in this passage refers to John and his companions. What is significant about this is that John was an apostle of Jesus Christ - one of the leaders of the early Christian church and certainly a significant player in the shaping and cultivating of the new believers in the Kingdom of God. However we find it written that Diotrephes would have nothing to do with John or his companions….Why? Why do you think Diotrephes would want to reject one of Jesus’ apostles? More than likely it is because of the threat John and company pose to Diotrephes position and influence. Remember that Diotrephes loves to be first. One of the signposts of such a person is that they won’t play second fiddle to nobody. They won’t accept anybody’s authority over them. Needless to say such people don’t really operate well in democratic meetings.